Universiteit Leiden

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Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML)

Minor Sustainable Development

Description of the Minor Sustainable Development (30 EC)


This interdisciplinary minor addresses sustainabilty challenges from a systems perspective, and investigates ways to sustain society within planetary boundaries.

The minor provides knowledge of society, energy and material flows, climate change, land use and biodiversity, and the interlinkages between these. You will also be taught academic skills and tools to design interdisciplinary solutions to sustainability challenges, including innovative and circular economy approaches. Moreover, you will improve a lot of practical skills like English writing, debating and presenting. In the final course of the minor, you can apply your acquired skills and knowledge to current and real-life sustainability challenges in the Netherlands, Indonesia, the Philippines or South Africa.

The minor is a full time programme lasting five months (2 September 2019 – 31 January 2020).

Admission requirements & Registration

Admission requirements
Whether you are a language or chemistry student, a biologist or a cultural anthropologist, the minor Sustainable Development is open and of interest to third year bachelor students from all degree programmes.
Please note that we can accommodate a maximum of 90 students. Admission is based on the students’ qualifications + a first come, first served basis. Students of Leiden University are given priority over external students.

For 2019-2020 you can officially register for the minor Sustainable Development in uSis from 1 May 2019 onwards. The uSis class number (studie-activiteit nummer) will be shared via the e-Prospectus in April.

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.

Courses and Schedules

The programme consists of:

  • Big Issues, New Answers (15 ECTS)
  • Resilient Cities (8 ECTS)

And one of the following Area Studies:

  • Area Study Sustainability Netherlands (7 ECTS)
  • Area Study Sustainability Indonesia (7 ECTS)
  • Area Study Sustainability Philippines (10 ECTS)

More information about the content of these courses can be found via the e-Prospectus.

The minor is a full time programme lasting five months (September till February). Please be aware that it is an intensive programme with lectures and tutorial group sessions throughout the week. Most classes are scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with compulsory attendance. Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for occasional extra classes and independent studies, which does not mean that these are days off; you will need them to study the literature, do assignments and prepare presentations.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much work does the minor programme involve? The minor is a full-time programme lasting five months. You must be aware that it is an intensive programme with lectures, tutorial group sessions etc. mostly 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 occasional classes and 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 2 September to 8 November 2019.

MSc Industrial Ecology and MSc Governance of Sustainability

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 this website. 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).

CML also offeres the MSc Governance of Sustainability. In this new programme, offered in The Hague, you will obtain in-depth knowledge of both the governance perspective (social science) and the natural sciences. You will learn how to integrate these perspectives in order to develop and improve the quality of governance solutions to major sustainability challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and the transition to a circular economy. In addition, you will learn a variety of skills required to cope with wicked sustainability problems and to develop oneself into a future ‘change agent’ in a governance context. See also this website for more information.

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