Curriculum

What are the subjects?

The Bachelor’s programme lasts three years. In the first year, you essentially acquire a broad understanding of sustainability, which you then deepen in the two subsequent years. The first year is an introduction year. You start by concentrating on local and regional themes and, as your studies progress, you’ll increasingly be examining international areas of interest. Following your first year, you will deepen your knowledge by choosing one of four tracks which will allow you to focus on themes that really interest you. You will also have the option of putting together your own track.

The course overview below only includes the compulsory courses. You can also download a complete overview, including track courses and examples of elective courses.

Course overview (when starting in 2018)

Courses year 1
Period 1
Sustainability Challenges
You acquire a broad view of the key challenges in the field of sustainability, including the distribution of water, food and energy, urban and economic development, and the explosive growth of the world’s population. You immediately get to work on a project with a team of other students. Looking at the past, the present and the future is essential to discovering patterns and seeking solutions. You will also appreciate the importance of gaining insight into the international debates on sustainability.
Mathematics and Systems Analysis
If you engage in this field, you will already be aware of how complex systems are and how a multidisciplinary approach can reduce them to their essence. In this course you’ll learn how to analyse, understand and evaluate systems, as well as how to incorporate them into a model.
Period 2
Socio-Economic Processes
The Earth is a wonderful self-regulating system which is being thrown out of balance by the explosive growth of the world’s population. Socio-economic processes can contribute to solving sustainability problems – for example, through markets in which emission permits are traded (the heaviest polluters pay the most) or through government regulation. You’ll acquire an understanding of these processes.
Natural Processes
An essential element of the programme is that you understand the natural, biochemical and hydrological processes (water cycle) that maintain the Earth in balance.
Period 3
Track course
You take a course of your track. You can download a complete list of track courses through the link above this course overview. Track courses are flexible. Your track course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Elective course
You take a course of your choice. An elective course can be a track course or a course in any other Bachelor’s programme. Elective courses are flexible. Your elective course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Period 4
Research skills
You’ll learn how to conduct empirical, scientific research by setting up your own research project. You’ll be collecting data and analysing them using different research methods, such as statistics. The theme of a researcher’s integrity is an important component of this course.
Regional Integration Project
Everything you learn during your first year you will apply in practice by setting up an own, team research project, which will deal with a regional question. You will jointly carry out field work, and learn how to use computer models and how to collect samples.
Courses year 2
Period 1
Track course
You take a course of your track. You can download a complete list of track courses through the link above this course overview. Track courses are flexible. Your track course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Track course
You take a course of your track. You can download a complete list of track courses through the link above this course overview. Track courses are flexible. Your track course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Period 2
Philosophy of Science and Ethics
How does science work and what is the difference between scientific and pseudo-scientific knowledge? You will learn about important philosophers and environmental ethics by reflecting on moral issues that regard the relation between humans and nature / environment.
Elective course
You take a course of your choice. An elective course can be a track course or a course in any other Bachelor’s programme. Elective courses are flexible. Your elective course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Period 3
Statistics
You will learn methods for the analysis of quantitative and qualitative empirical scientific data, with an emphasis on a range of statistical methods.
Elective course
You take a course of your choice. An elective course can be a track course or a course in any other Bachelor’s programme. Elective courses are flexible. Your elective course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Period 4
Global Integration Project
Together with a group, you will implement an interdisciplinary research project on global sustainability challenges and solutions, such as global climate negotiations, adaptation and mitigation, the global biodiversity crisis, or the United Nations Model Conferences.
Elective course
You take a course of your choice. An elective course can be a track course or a course in any other Bachelor’s programme. Elective courses are flexible. Your elective course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Courses year 3
Period 1
Track course
You take a course of your track. You can download a complete list of track courses through the link above this course overview. Track courses are flexible. Your track course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Track course
You take a course of your track. You can download a complete list of track courses through the link above this course overview. Track courses are flexible. Your track course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Period 2
Track course
You take a course of your track. You can download a complete list of track courses through the link above this course overview. Track courses are flexible. Your track course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Elective course
You take a course of your choice. An elective course can be a track course or a course in any other Bachelor’s programme. Elective courses are flexible. Your elective course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Period 3
Consultancy Project
An interdisciplinary group research project for a real-life client, for example an NGO, Utrecht University, the Province of Utrecht. You will act as consultants, giving advice to your client on a real sustainability issue. In the Consultancy Project, you will put all the knowledge and skills learned during the entire programme into practice.
Elective course
You take a course of your choice. An elective course can be a track course or a course in any other Bachelor’s programme. Elective courses are flexible. Your elective course might take place in another period than is illustrated here.
Period 4
Bachelor's Thesis
This individual research project is the final assignment of the Bachelor’s programme. You apply the knowledge you gained on sustainability challenges and solutions and research methods. The Bachelor’s thesis is used to assess your ability to plan, execute, report and present a research project.

First year

You’ll study sustainability issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. In the first year, you’ll acquire a broad view of the key challenges in the field of sustainability, including the distribution of water, food and energy, urban and economic development, and the explosive growth of the world’s population. You will immediately start working on a team project with other students.

You will also examine the dynamics of the natural environment, the social processes and, perhaps most importantly, the interaction between the natural and social systems at a global, regional and local level. You’ll learn how to study and analyse such complex systems, and about all the elements involved in setting up and conducting a scientific research project.

You’ll conclude the year with a multidisciplinary research project on a regional question. You’ll be carrying out joint field work, and learn how to use computer models, conduct interviews, collect samples and write a research report. Over the course of the year you will also be defining the direction you’ll take in the track choice you’ll make in your second year.

Second year

In the second year you’ll have fewer compulsory courses. You’ll learn more about the philosophy of science and ethics. How can one distinguish “good” science from pseudo science, and what moral and ethical questions play a role in sustainable development? Attention will be paid to a variety of statistical methods. You will also seek to deepen your knowledge of a single sustainability science theme. You will be choosing one of four tracks or putting together your own.

At the end of this year as well, you’ll be setting up an own team research project. This project will deal with a global question, such as climate or biodiversity. You’ll be applying all the knowledge you will have acquired in your first two years in this project.

Third year

You’ll spend the first half of the third year deepening your knowledge of your track’s theme. With regard to your research project, in the third year you’ll be ready for real work. Working with a team, you’ll be advising a real client as a consultant on a specific practical sustainability issue. The client might, for instance, be a charitable organisation (NGO), a government entity or a company. It’s naturally super interesting to apply your knowledge and skills in practice. You’ll be amazed about how your professionalism is perceived. Interacting with a client involves a completely new dynamic!

You’ll conclude your studies by writing your Bachelor’s thesis. This is an individual research project about a current sustainability issue. You’ll be drawing on all the knowledge and experience you will have acquired in the programme. This project will allow you to show how you develop a plan of action, how you implement it and how you report and present it.

Deepening knowledge through tracks

You’ll be deepening your knowledge through one of four tracks. You may also put together your own track and take extra courses in the Global Sustainability Science programme or in other Utrecht University degree programmes.

The track you select will form the basis for the Master’s you’ll be able to take following your Bachelor’s. The four tracks are:

  • Water, Climate & Ecosystems
  • Energy & Resources
  • Governance & Societal Transformation
  • Business & Innovation

Natural, social and interdisciplinary courses

per track

Studiepad bèta gamma bèta-gamma
Water, Climate & Ecosystems 45% 10% 45%
Energy & Resources 50% 10% 40%
Governance & Societal Transformation 20% 30% 50%
Business & Innovation 25% 40% 35%