Universiteit Leiden

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Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML)

Minor Sustainable Development

Description of the Minor Sustainable Development (30 EC)


A minor is a half year study (30 EC) during your bachelor program. The content of this study can be totally different from your major program. At Leiden University you can attend a minor during the first semester of the third year of the bachelor. 

Information about the amount of EC reserved for electives in your program is available at the minor-website of Leiden University.

The minor “Sustainable Development” has an interdisciplinary character and is designed for all degree programmes.

Admission requirements & Registration

Admission requirements
The minor Sustainable Development is designed for 3rd year bachelors students from all degree programmes. Whether you are a language or chemistry student, a social scientist or an archeologist, the minor Sustainable Development is open and of interest to all.

The minor is fully booked for 2017-2018. More information about the registration procedure for 2018-2019 will be available around February 2018.


Sustainable Development is a well-known concept, but what exactly does it mean? Sustainable Development is a form of development that preserves a sound ecological and social basis for society. This requires awareness of problems like climate change, loss of natural habitats, pollution and soil degradation. But Sustainable Development is also a platform for innovative ideas and practices of habitat development, 'cradle-to-cradle' designs for products and cities, corporate social responsibility and globalization and anti-globalization, in the Netherlands, in developing countries and worldwide.

This minor addresses all of these issues from a unique perspective, as it invites you to learn to tackle the problems by first analysing your own views and role regarding the sustainable development issues. You will then be confronted with a wide range of scientific views and solution strategies, which you will be asked to analyse critically. The programme will be taught by CML, but will feature contributions from many others at Leiden University and from society at large.

Why opt for the minor Sustainable Development? 

  • It is a specially designed minor with courses that are closely coordinated (not a combination of existing courses)
  • You will learn how the world’s major problems can be made manageable
  • You will work within both a local and a global context
  • The course combines academic and practical skills (debating, presenting, writing)
  • You will receive extensive feedback from teachers and from your peers 

Take a look at our animation movie to see what the minor is all about, and check the movie with student testimonials and the movie about working methods to see and hear from former students about their experience with the minor Sustainable Development.

Learning goals whole minor

After completing the minor Sustainable Development, you will be able to:
A. Describe the world as a complex system of cycles and processes, and explain how that affects sustainability challenges;
B. Use theory, factual knowledge and a system’s perspective to explain the drivers of sustainability challenges and how they interact with economy, culture and biodiversity;
C. Analyse complex sustainability problems using various methodologies, and use the results to propose well-founded and creative ideas for solutions;
D. Substantiate and defend statements and findings regarding sustainability challenges and proposed solutions to a broad audience, both verbally and in writing;
E. Identify how the knowledge and skills of your major programme can contribute to managing and solving sustainability challenges;
F. Recognise the value of the interdisciplinarity of the field of Sustainable Development by integrating different perspectives and sensitively interacting with people with different backgrounds.

Courses and Schedules

The minor Sustainable Development (30 EC) consists of three courses:

  • Sustainable Development: Big Issues New Answers 15 EC, period: 4 Sep - 10 Nov 2017 
    In this course, you will be asked to explore what is meant by sustainability, starting from your own initial views and background. You will be challenged to discuss questions such as: what are the effects of population growth, technology and culture on the environment in which we live? And how can a society work towards greater sustainability? The major current environmental problems, like climate change, food security, loss of biodiversity, waste processing and soil degradation will be addressed, as will methods and technologies to measure and modify the effects of human activities on the environment. The course consists of 4 Modules: Introduction to Sustainability; Biodiversity; System Earth & Climate Change; and Economy & Technology.
  • Designing Research for Sustainability Solutions 8 EC, period: 13 Nov - 22 Dec 2017
    This course offers you in-depth knowledge of and training in major environmental tools and techniques for developing solutions to sustainability problems. These include systems approach and systems thinking, scenario analyses, restoration methodology, as well as practical skills like English writing, and interview and questionnaire techniques.

Area study Sustainability (you will select one of the following four options): 

  • Area Study Sustainability Netherlands 7 EC, period: 8 Jan - 2 Feb 2018
    In this course you will explore an environmental case study. In groups you will analyze the problem, its solutions and the factors that obstruct these solutions. The theme for 2017 was '2030 Sustainable Leiden?' Leiden municipality has set itself several goals and initiatives to be a much more sustainable city in 2030. To achieve the targets, the municipality has launched 24 initiatives and 41 ideas. The students investigated whether the initiatives and ideas are enough to actually achieve the sustainability goals.
  • Area Study Sustainability Philippines 10 EC, period: 8 Jan - 2 Feb 2018
    A maximum of 10-12 students will get the opportunity to visit the Philippines for an interdisciplinary ‘winter school’ on issues relating to water use, tropical rain forests, agriculture and ‘indigenous people’ in the north-eastern Luzon area. This winter school offers you a unique experience of being immersed in a different culture, learning to collaborate with your Philippine counterparts and experience first-hand the influence of global environmental problems on the everyday lives of local communities in a developing country. Travel and accommodation costs amount to about 1600 euros. 
  • Area Study Sustainability Indonesia 7 EC,  period: 8 Jan - 2 Feb 2018
    A maximum of 12 students will get the opportunity to visit Indonesia and do fieldwork. The theme for 2018 is 'marine' oriented, students will do fieldwork at the Thousand Islands, above Jakarta.
  • Area Study Sustainability South Africa 7 EC,  period: 8 Jan - 2 Feb 2018
    A maximum of 12 students will get the opportunity to visit South Africa and do fieldwork.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much work does the minor programme involve? The minor is a full-time programme lasting six months. You must be aware that it is an intensive programme with lectures, tutorial group sessions etc. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (usually from 09.30 – 16.30h, but this varies with the lecturers and topics; the detailed schedule will be published in mid-August). The Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for independent studies, which does not mean that these are days off; you will need them to study the literature, do assignments and prepare presentations. The course level is aimed at third-year Bachelor’s students, and the programme is open to students of all disciplines. Sustainability issues will be approached from various perspectives, involving aspects of both the natural sciences and the humanities. You will be expected to participate actively, assisting your fellow students with the knowledge you can contribute from your own discipline. It is this exchange of knowledge that makes this minor interactive and yields the maximum result, as well as being great fun!

2. I have to do other courses for my Bachelor’s degree. Can I combine these with the minor? In view of the intensity of the programme we recommend not doing any other coursework during the minor. You should be aware that the minor will keep you busy for five days a week (see the explanation at question 1). You will be collaborating closely with fellow students in the project group component and the area study, and attendance will be compulsory.

3. I have only 15 ECTS available for electives. Can I take only a part of the minor? Yes, students who do not have the full 30 ECTS available can take the ‘Sustainable Development: Big Issues New Answers’ course as an elective. You will need permission to do so from the exam board for your degree programme. This course will be taught from 4 September to 10 November 2017.

Master programme Industrial Ecology

The minor Sustainable Development offers you the opportunity to familiarise yourself with Industrial Ecology, a discipline that is also offered as a Master’s programme by CML in cooperation with Delft University of Technology. This Master’s programme combines knowledge about the environment, sustainability and social aspects with practical applications in industry and technology. The programme is open to students with a background in natural sciences, social sciences or technology, provided they meet the entrance requirements: see also http://en.mastersinleiden.nl/programmes/industrial-ecology/en/introduction Be aware that the master's programme Industrial Ecology is more technical than the minor Sustainable Development. Therefore students must have sufficient background knowledge of the natural sciences (e.g. natural sciences subjects in high school).