By Joern Fischer
Next week is the beginning of the winter semester here in Lueneburg. Good time to write a short note to welcome our new students — and tell the rest of the world some of the key features of our first semester here at Leuphana University Lueneburg.
A few years ago, Leuphana radically reformed its curriculum. As part of this reform, all first semester Bachelor students now spend approximately one third of their time on a compulsory course called “Responsibility in Science” — the focus is on global change, sustainability, and trandisciplinarity.
I think it’s a fantastic idea to get all first semester Bachelor students to focus (at least for one semester) on sustainability and global change. Moreover, the way this course is structured is very innovative. The course includes lectures, tutorials, group research projects, and at the end of the semester, a student conference.
The lectures give an overview about key issues related to global change. The tutorials give students practical guidance. Probably the most exciting aspect are the group research projects. About 70 groups of 25 students each conduct their own research on a topic related to sustainability. These groups are further sub-divided into 5 smaller groups of 5 students each: and each of these little sub-groups then examines part of a real-world sustainability problem.
At the end of the semester, students come together at a big student conference. Through some miraculously well-organised process (Germans are in charge, after all…), they all get to see at least some of each other’s research findings, and give little presentations; some even present their own movies on their research findings, or get together and meet a famous author on sustainability.
Bottom line: people studying here get first-hands research experience starting in semester 1 — and sustainability and transdisciplinarity are issues that are a core part of the agenda from the very beginning. I think this is pretty cool, and something that various more famous universities could learn from.
Here is a short movie (in German) summarising some of the impressions from last year’s student conference…