nl en

Sustainable development (interdisciplinary minor)

Admission requirements

The minor Sustainable Development is designed for 3rd year bachelors students from all degree programmes. Whether you are a language or chemistry student, a social scientist or an archeologist, the minor Sustainable Development is open and of interest to all.
NEW: as of the present semester (2013-2014), the Sustainable Development minor will be taught in English.


Sustainable Development is a well-known concept, but what exactly does it mean? Sustainable Development is a form of development that preserves a sound ecological and social basis for society. This requires awareness of problems like climate change, loss of natural habitats, pollution and soil degradation. But Sustainable Development is also a platform for innovative ideas and practices of habitat development, ‘cradle-to-cradle’ designs for products and cities, corporate social responsibility and globalization and anti-globalization, in the Netherlands, in developing countries and worldwide.

This minor addresses all of these issues from a unique perspective, as it invites you to learn to tackle the problems by first analysing your own views and role regarding the sustainable development issues. You will then be confronted with a wide range of scientific views and solution strategies, which you will be asked to analyse critically. The programme will be taught by CML, but will feature contributions from many others at Leiden University and from society at large.

Why opt for the minor Sustainable Development?

  • It is a specially designed minor with courses that are closely coordinated (not a combination of existing courses)

  • You will learn how the world’s major problems can be made manageable

  • You will work within both a local and a global context

  • The course uses modern teaching methods (debates, seminars, Facebook, e-learning)

  • The course combines academic and practical skills

  • You will receive extensive feedback from teachers and from your peers

The minor Sustainable Development (30 EC) consists of three courses:
1. Big Issues New Answers (15 EC) runs from 3 September until 12 November 2013 (Full time)
In this course, you will be asked to explore what is meant by sustainability, starting from your own initial views and background. You will be challenged to discuss questions such as: what are the effects of population growth, technology and culture on the environment in which we live? And how can a society work towards greater sustainability? The major current environmental problems, like climate change, food security, loss of biodiversity, waste processing and soil degradation will be addressed, as will methods and technologies to measure and modify the effects of human activities on the environment. At the end of the course, you will be asked to look back at your initial views to see whether these have been altered or confirmed during the course.

2. Project groups: Design of European Research (8 EC) runs from 13 November until 19 December 2013 (Full time)
This course component focuses on project management. You will take part in tutorial groups where you will write and defend a proposal for a research study on a sustainability theme in the context of the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union(EU/FP7). Securing project funding from the EU is an important skill, which will be very useful in your further academic career.

  1. Area study (you will select one of the following two options):
  • Waste not Want not: A Future without Waste (7 EC) runs from 6 January to 3 February 2014 (full-time)
    What to do with the 3 billion tons of waste generated by the EU countries each year? The area study for this minor invites you to explore the problem, its solutions and the factors that hamper these solutions. You will be trained in scenario techniques at the start of the course, after which you will further investigate the challenge of turning waste into a valuable resource. In addition, you will go on field trips to, for instance, a waste processing plant, and you and your fellow students will take part in a debate with experts in the field. The area study will enable you to test the theories you have learned in class in practical situations.

  • International course on water issues and water management in the Philippines (10 EC)
    A maximum of 5 students will get the opportunity to visit the Philippines for an interdisciplinary ‘winter school’ on issues relating to water use, tropical rain forests, agriculture and ‘indigenous people’ in the north-eastern Luzon area. This winter school offers you a unique experience of being immersed in a different culture, learning to collaborate with your Philippine counterparts and experience first-hand the influence of global environmental problems on the everyday lives of local communities in a developing country. Travel and accommodation costs amount to about 1600 euros. NB At this point in time, it is not certain whether the winter school will be held again in 2014. As soon as more information is available, it will be posted on this site.

Final attainment objectives for the minor Sustainable Development

After completing the minor Sustainable Development, you will be able to:
1. Use theory and factual knowledge to identify regions and the world as a whole as systems and describe them in terms of matter and energy cycles interacting with economy, culture and biodiversity.
2. Use various methodologies to analyse and explain complex and poorly defined sustainability problems, and use the results of this analysis to propose well-founded and creative ideas for solutions.
3. Explain different views that exist within the discipline of Sustainable Development and formulate your own point of view.
4. Interact and collaborate with people from different disciplines, backgrounds or cultures in a sensitive manner.
5. Identify links between sustainability issues and the knowledge and skills you have acquired in the context of your major programme.

hs. Timetable

The minor is a full time programme lasting five months (Sept – Jan). You must be aware that it is an intensive programme with lectures and tutorial group sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (with compulsory attendance) usually from 09.00 – 16.30 h, but this varies with the lecturers and topics. Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for independent studies, which does not mean that these are days off; you will need them to study the literature, do assignments and prepare presentations.

Schedule Sustainable Development: Big Issues New Answers 2013 – 2014


You can officially register for the minor Sustainable Development via uSis from 1 May until 15 August.
Below you will find details about how to formally register for the minor through U-Sis.

Students of Leiden University

You can find the minor in uSis as follows:
1. Go to Studierooster – Studieactiviteiten zoeken
2. Enter the following search criteria:
Instelling: Universiteit Leiden
Nr. Studie activiteit: 2023
3. Click on Zoeken
This will result in a list of all Bachelor’s courses and minors, including the minor on Sustainable Development (registered as Duurzame Ontwikkeling).

Note: You must register for the minor as a whole as well as for the individual courses and the various modules that make up a course! Look under FILES (bestanden) “registration codes Usis” to find the Usis codes for the courses.

Registration for an elective of 15 EC

Students who do not have the full 30 ECTS available can take the ‘Sustainable Development: Big Issues New Answers’ course as an elective. In Usis you will register for this course only (so not for the whole minor). You will need permission to do so from the exam board for your degree programme. This course will be taught from September to 12 November 2013.
You can find the course Big Issues New Answers in uSis using the Usis codes you can find in the table “Registration codes Usis”. You have to sign up for all the modules and the sustainability paper.

Other Students

In principle, the minor is also open to students of other universities and universities of professional education (HBO), but they must meet different admission criteria.
We welcome external students, provided that they are highly motivated to do so and show great commitment. If the number of applicants exceeds the number of places, participants will be selected on the basis of a letter of motivation and/or an intake interview. In recent years, a number of places have always been available for external students.

You can register for the minor as follows:
1. Go to the webpage anders studeren and follow instructions.
2. The request form must be signed by the study advisor at the institute where the course is to take place. You must therefore first send this form (with all the necessary documents) to the following address:
Universiteit Leiden
Tav Onderwijsbureau
Postbus 9518
2300 RA Leiden
3. We will then send it to the PLEXUS central administrative office.
4. After receiving your student number and ULCN account you can register for the minor in Usis in the same way as students from Leiden University (see above).

Please Note: Your registration can only be processed in time if you make sure you are in possession of all the documents required for your registration as a guest student as early as possible (by 15 August at the latest).
Since students of Leiden University are given priority, external applicants will have to wait until 15 August to know whether any places are available for external students.

You can also register your interest. We will then keep you informed of developments regarding the minor programme through a newsletter.

Further information and links

If you have any questions about the programme or registration process you can send an e-mail to the minor coordinator Rianne de Bree at