Sustainability in universities and colleges

Forschen für eine nachhaltigere Zukunft – in Bayern gibt es immer mehr Studiengänge, die genau das ermöglichen. Foto: PantherMedia / VitalikRadko


Sustainability in universities and colleges

05 May 2021 Comments Closed 41 Views

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important. For example, more and more companies are trying to produce in an environmentally friendly and climate-neutral way and to act in a socially just manner. And many universities are now taking up the cause of sustainability. This is particularly visible in the area of teaching: Every year, new courses of study are offered that focus on the various facets of sustainability. New faculties are even being established.

In Neuburg an der Donau, an external campus of the Ingolstadt University of Technology (THI) is being realized in the long term for the new “Sustainable Infrastructure” faculty with 1,200 students. For this purpose, land has been acquired on the site of the former Lassigny barracks. Teaching is scheduled to start in the winter semester of 2021/2022. “The focus of the course offerings will be on construction, energy and the environment,” according to a TH Ingolstadt press release. Initially, 80 students are to start with the bachelor’s degree programs “Sustainability and Environmental Management” and “Industrial Engineering and Construction”, which are unique in Bavaria.

Learning, research and living

There are also plans to construct a modular building for around 500 students. Use is scheduled to begin in the winter semester of 2022/23. The “Civil Engineering” and “Digital Building Technology” degree programs will then be added. The first construction phase, which includes the renovation of the old buildings and the construction of new buildings, is expected to be completed by 2025/26. Until then, the range of courses will continue to grow. Initially, the bachelor’s degree programs “Transportation and Infrastructure Engineering” and “Environmental and Energy Engineering” will be added. By 2030, a total of eleven bachelor’s and master’s degree programs will be successively established. “With the Neuburg campus, we are creating a lively knowledge quarter where students can learn, research and live,” explains Professor Walter Schober, President of Ingolstadt University of Technology.

According to TH Ingolstadt, one of the focal points of the new “Industrial Engineering – Construction” degree program is sustainability in the construction industry. In an interdisciplinary, future-oriented and practical way, it will impart sound engineering knowledge in combination with efficient management know-how. “In small groups, the students receive optimal support and accompany the development of the new campus as pioneers,” writes the TH in a brochure. “Industrial engineering – construction” can also be studied dual. This would deepen the practical elements of the study, the company internship and the project and final thesis in conjunction with a company, especially in the construction industry. In addition, a combination with vocational training is possible, for example as a draftsman or technical construction assistant.

The “Sustainability and Environmental Management” course, on the other hand, is designed to prepare students “to shape the necessary change in the sense of sustainable development in companies and in society after graduation”. The aim is to gain a sound knowledge of theories, methods and instruments, to apply what they have learned in a practical way and to critically reflect on existing challenges.

Sharpening understanding of sustainability
In Bavaria, the presidents of all 31 state and state-recognized universities and universities of applied sciences, as well as the Munich University of Music and Theatre, signed the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between universities as part of the University and Sustainability Network (MoU) in March. Initiated in mid-2019, the aim is to support university actors in improving the framework conditions for sustainable development of Bavarian universities.

Sustainability has long been a core topic at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). At its Straubing Campus for Biotechnology and Sustainability (TUMCS), for example, it offers an interdisciplinary range of courses that is unique in Germany. The focus is on the entire value chain of biogenic raw materials –

from cultivation, efficient chemical and material use and energy recovery to economic aspects related to the production, marketing and use of renewable raw materials. At the Straubing Campus, TUM bundles its expertise and activities in the field of bioeconomy. Natural scientists, engineers, ecosystem scientists and economists work together there.

There is no “Planet B”

Professor Volker Sieber, Rector of TUMCS, recently explained in an interview with the Association of German Engineers (VDI) why his campus is committed to the topic of sustainability. “Because the topics of sustainability, bioeconomy, use of energy-efficient processes and conversion to a biobased economy are indispensable, in order to keep our planet livable. There is no ‘Planet B’.” To counter climate change and slow the use of finite, fossil fuels, he said, new technologies and economies are needed. And it is precisely these that are being researched and taught at TUMCS.

Last winter semester, 580 students were counted at the Straubing campus, which represents an increase of around 25 percent compared to the previous year. Among the new courses offered since the 2020/2021 winter semester is the bachelor’s degree program “Biogenic Materials”. It trains materials scientists who, according to TUM, are “up to the challenges of our changing world.” This is the only way to successfully switch from fossil to renewable raw materials. The master’s program “Bioeconomy” is also new. “The bioeconomy aims at a macroeconomic structural change towards a globally sustainable development,” the university explains in a press release. The master’s program combines content from social and economic sciences, engineering and natural sciences.

In harmony with economy and ecology

The Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (HSWT) – a cooperation partner of the TUM campus in Straubing – is introducing two new bachelor’s degree programs at the “Sustainable Agricultural and Energy Systems” faculty in the winter semester 2021/22: “Agribusiness” replaces its predecessor “Industrial Engineering, Agricultural Marketing and Management.” The program is designed to prepare students for the interlinking of economics, agriculture and digital technology. The multiple qualification of agricultural and business expertise is imparted. The aim is “to enable graduates to meet the growing demands of consumers and the increasing demands for agriculture in harmony with the economy and ecology in a meaningful way,” according to a press release from the HSWT.

The second degree program, “Organic Food & Business,” prepares students for jobs along the entire organic food value chain. “It provides an understanding of the conditions in organic agriculture and food processing, as a prerequisite for being able to optimize the interfaces of marketing through to consumption,” it adds. The goal, it says, is to shape the future food system in a balance of ecological, economic and social aspects – and, for example, to reconcile the challenges of climate change with a sustainable food supply.

Brigitta Wenninger