19 September 2019

Interdisciplinary solutions for a sustainable future


We know that universities have a special position and responsibility to play a key role in shaping a more sustainable future. We believe that students hold many of the answers needed to address the great challenges that the world is facing. That is why we have mapped every course offered across disciplines at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) in relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Simultaneously, UCPH is working towards becoming one of the world’s greenest campus areas, leaving as little environmental and climate footprint as possible, through our Green Campus strategy.

At UCPH, we believe that students are a tremendous resource in terms of providing answers and solutions to the world’s problems. Students come with diversity, different kinds of perspectives and fresh mind-sets that inspire others to come up with new and different solutions for a sustainable future. We engage students in our research-based teaching and we believe that we can move faster and more efficiently towards identifying sustainable solutions.

That is why we have put together an SDG course mapping for our students - all in one page. We want to make it as easy as possible for all our students to navigate in the great variety of SDG-related courses offered by UCPH.

A sustainable set-up

International sustainable solutions to global problems require interdisciplinary thinking. The initiative to identify SDGs and courses is carried out across all our six faculties, because we strongly believe that complex global problems need multidisciplinary solutions.

For example, at our Faculty of Science, Anders Svensson, Head of Studies of the Climate Change study programme, explains why interdisciplinary study programmes are important to create long-term sustainable development:

"The climate challenge is not only global but also very much interdisciplinary. To tackle the climate issue we need two types of graduates: We need specialists within specific fields, such as the classic academic disciplines, and we need generalists that have broader interdisciplinary competences. When graduates are employed in consultancy companies or (non-)governmental organizations, they often collaborate with colleagues of very diverse backgrounds and they need interdisciplinary skills to get to solutions."

Universities are international by nature, and UCPH particularly appreciates international students coming to UCPH to find inspiration in our courses and study environment - and to take this inspiration back and use it at their home universities. Getting students to work together across programmes and disciplines is important if we want to maintain a global impact as a university.

Niels Brix Hornbek, International Coordinator, International Affairs and Admissions, Faculty of Science, says:

"The great breadth and depth in teaching and research – and the flexibility we offer in terms of choosing courses from different departments – allow exchange students to combine different perspectives and takes on climate and sustainability issues and design their own interdisciplinary study programme."

Striving to be a “Green campus”

The UCPH sustainability strategy Green Campus 2020 sets ambitious targets for reducing the University’s own energy consumption, CO2 emissions and waste volumes, as well as for increasing the recycling rate and making a more sustainable everyday life for staff and students.

UCPH has already achieved significant results on its climate and energy efforts. Since 2006, our CO2 emissions have been reduced by 62 percent per employee/student, while energy consumption has been reduced by 33 percent.

We are working to further reduce consumption and by extension of the Green Campus 2020 strategy, UCPH now approach a more sustainable everyday life for staff and students from two sides. A group of researchers makes recommendations for interdisciplinary sustainability research and an operational group is working on sustainable solutions for campus, university culture, meeting facilities, etc. to establish new and ambitious goals after the Green Campus 2020 strategy.