Study programme

The courses below are for cohort 2024 onward. If you are already a student at UU and are looking for information about cohort 2023 or earlier, please check our student website. 

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. After the first year, you have the option of selecting one of five tracks, depending on the specific balance you’d like to have between the natural and the social sciences.

Course overview

The course overview below only includes the compulsory courses. You can also download complete overview, including track courses.

Year 1

You’ll dive into interdisciplinary sustainability studies, exploring key global challenges like water, food, and energy distribution, urban development, and population growth. Collaborative projects kick off from year one, allowing you to delve into natural and social dynamics at various levels. Through hands-on experiences, including fieldwork and research projects, you’ll develop skills in analysing complex systems and conducting scientific research. By the end of your first year, you'll engage in a multidisciplinary research project, gaining practical experience in fieldwork, data collection, and report writing, while also preparing to choose your track for the second year.

Year 2

In the second year, you'll have fewer mandatory courses, focusing instead on diverse statistical methods, philosophy of science, ethics, environmental communication, and behaviour. You'll delve into distinguishing between valid and pseudo-science, ethical considerations in sustainable development, and the factors influencing environmental behaviour and communication strategies. Additionally, you'll choose one of five tracks to deepen your understanding in a specific sustainability science theme:

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

Towards the end of the year, you'll collaborate with a team to write a report for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on achieving a specific Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), exploring its interconnections with other SDGs. This project involves cooperation with UNEP and policymakers from approximately 45 countries, aiming to develop integrated national-level reports on the SDGs.

Year 3

In the first half of the third year, you'll deepen your understanding of your chosen track's theme. Then, you'll transition to practical work, collaborating with a team to advise real clients on sustainability issues. Clients may include NGOs, government agencies, or businesses, providing valuable opportunities to apply your knowledge and skills in real-world settings. Engaging with clients introduces a new dynamic to your studies, offering insights into your professionalism.

Your studies will culminate in writing your Bachelor's thesis, an individual research project addressing a current sustainability issue. Drawing on your program's knowledge and experience, you'll develop, implement, and report on a plan of action, showcasing your skills and expertise.

Working methods

Active education is important in this programme. There are lectures in large groups, but in almost all courses there are also activities in smaller groups, such as work lectures, projects, group assignments and computer practicals.

Study load

In total, you will spend approximately forty hours per week studying. Part of this consists of contact hours, such as lectures, tutorials and practicals. The rest consists of self-study, such as doing assignments individually or with fellow students, preparing for lectures and work and learning for exams.


After you first year, you’ll be deepening your knowledge through one of five tracks. The track you select will form the basis for the Master’s you’ll be able to take following your Bachelor’s. The five tracks are:

Optional course credits

In the Global Sustainability Science programme, 25% of your courses are electives. As electives, you can choose another track, do a minor or go abroad for a semester.


The courses you take include several tests. A test can consist of an exam, writing a paper, essay or report, working on a group project or giving a presentation.

Studying abroad

Studying abroad offers significant opportunities for both academic and personal growth. This programme allows you to spend up to six months studying in a foreign country through exchange programmes. Utrecht University partners with various universities worldwide, allowing you to remain enrolled at Utrecht University without paying tuition fees to the host institution. As a Global Sustainability Science student, exchange opportunities include the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, among others. These universities offer diverse sustainability courses that complement your programme. Visit the Global Sustainability Science Study abroad website for more information.

Group size

On average, there are 220 first-year students in Global Sustainability Science. During lectures, all students are seated, and in the first year, work classes typically consist of 20 to 25 fellow students.

Study guidance

You'll receive excellent supervision and personal guidance throughout your studies. At the beginning of the programme, you'll be assigned a tutor, a lecturer who serves as your study guide. Your tutor is your primary contact for any programme-related queries and to monitor your study progress.

Binding Study Advice (BSA)

Just like at all other Dutch universities, Utrecht has a Binding Study Advice (BSA) system. This means that you have to obtain a minimum number of credits in your first year of study to be allowed to continue your studies. At Global Sustainability Science this minimum is 45 credits (of the total of 60 credits to be obtained). If you do not achieve this, you must discontinue your studies. The study advisor or tutor will help you find a study that suits you better.