Tracks

Track description: 

The Sustainable Development programme offers the following four tracks:

Track title: 
Energy and Materials

Track description: 

The transition to the sustainable use of energy and materials

Scientific approach

Natural sciences and social sciences

Energy and Materials

Energy and Materials is a multidisciplinary natural science track that focuses on the analysis of energy and materials systems. Current systems are clearly unsustainable as they have a significant negative impact on the environment and are based on finite resources. You will study cleaner and renewable production options and a more efficient consumption of energy and materials needed for sustainable development.

Please note that some track courses build on specific foreknowledge, notably concerning energy analysis and thermodynamics (consult the Study Guide for current students for more information). Students lacking this foreknowledge are responsible for acquiring this knowledge independently before entering such courses. 

Research themes

  • How will global energy demand develop in the coming decades?
  • What is the role of wind, nuclear, and solar power? What is the role in the 2030 energy supply system?
  • How do climate change and depletion of fossil fuel reserves interact?
  • What is the role of material efficiency and product design in a sustainable society?
  • What are the opportunities and barriers for the uptake of new innovative energy technologies?
  • What policies can be implemented to improve energy efficiency? 

Track title: 
Environmental Change and Ecosystems

Track description: 

The suitable use of land and water

Scientific approach

Natural sciences

Environmental Change and Ecosystems is a multidisciplinary natural science track focusing on the interaction between humans and the physical and biotic environment. The track brings together the fields of physical geography, hydrology, (landscape) ecology, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. You will study changes in land use, the dispersal of substances (in water, soil, and air) and their impact on ecosystems, biodiversity and remediation options. 

Please note that some track courses build on specific foreknowledge, notably concerning mathematics and systems analysis (consult the Study Guide for current students for more information). Students lacking this foreknowledge are responsible for acquiring this knowledge independently before entering such courses.

Research themes

  • How do the substances generated by various human activities spread through water, air, and subsoil?
  • What impact does environmental pollution have on ecosystems?
  • How can ecosystems and biodiversity be protected more effectively?
  • What options are there for regenerating damaged ecosystems?
  • How should future water management adapt to climate change?

Track title: 
Earth System Governance

Track description: 

Governing the social changes needed for an environmentally accountable society

Scientific approach

Social Sciences

Earth System Governance is a multidisciplinary social science track that deals with environmental issues and environmental policy. The track integrates knowledge from the fields of policy science, sociology, human geography, planning, economics and law. You will study the strategies governments, businesses and civil society develop and implement in their quest for sustainable development. Good governance means the ability to create organisational, procedural and moral frameworks that have a positive impact on issues of sustainability related to climate change, production and consumption, biodiversity, water, and the urban environment. 

Research themes

  • How do central, regional, and local governments collaborate with companies to relieve the stress put on the environment by the chemical industry? Which factors determine whether this collaboration is fruitful?
  • What policies can be deployed to stimulate biodiversity in the agricultural sector?
  • How can a switch to eco-efficient production and consumption be achieved?
  • To what extent can policy-making ensure that mega-infrastructure projects take the quality of built environments into account?
  • Under which conditions are societies able to adapt successfully to climate change?

Track title: 
International Development

Track description: 

Sustainable development and living in the Global South

Scientific approach

Social Sciences

International Development is a multidisciplinary social science track that focuses on how the need for improved living conditions for growing populations in the Global South can be reconciled with the need to preserve natural resources. This track combines practical experience, such as fieldwork and empirical research, with insights and concepts derived from sociology, economics, anthropology and environmental studies. 

Research themes

  • How can human development in countries south of the equator be reconciled with environmental sustainability?
  • To what extent are environmentally friendly policies economically, socially, and culturally sustainable in Africa, Latin America, and Asia?
  • What is the environmental impact of economic development processes?
  • How do people respond to hazards and ‘risky environments’ and what are the consequences of their vulnerable situations?
  • How can migration and eco-tourism contribute to poverty alleviation and improved livelihoods?
  • How can societies cope with declining livelihoods in desertified and/or deforested areas?
  • How can local governance contribute to sustainable living conditions within the context of rapid urbanisation?
  • How does globalisation and liberalisation affect access to natural resources such as land, water, and fuels?