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Sustainable development (interdisciplinary minor)


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

  • 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

Final attainment objectives for the minor Sustainable Development

After completing the minor Sustainable Development, you will be able to:
A. Describe the world as a complex system of cycles and processes, and explain how that affects sustainability challenges;
B. Use theory, factual knowledge and a system’s perspective to explain the drivers of sustainability challenges and how they interact with economy, culture and biodiversity;
C. Analyse complex sustainability problems using various methodologies, and use the results to propose well-founded and creative ideas for solutions;
D. Substantiate and defend statements and findings regarding sustainability challenges and proposed solutions to a broad audience, both verbally and in writing;
E. Identify how the knowledge and skills of your major programme can contribute to managing and solving sustainability challenges;
F. Recognise the value of the interdisciplinarity of the field of Sustainable Development by integrating different perspectives and sensitively interacting with people with different backgrounds.


The minor is a full time programme lasting five months (4 September 2017 – 2 February 2018). Please be aware that it is an intensive programme with lectures and tutorial group sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with compulsory attendance. 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.

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.
Please note that we can accommodate a maximum of 70 students. Admission is based on the students’ qualifications + a first come, first served basis. Students of Leiden University are given priority over external students. After being admitted to the programme, students are required to submit a preparatory assignment (see below, 'survey').


You can officially register for the minor Sustainable Development in uSis from 1 May until 1 August 2017. The uSis class number (studie-activiteit nummer) is 1469.

Registration students TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam

Since 2015, Leiden, Delft and Erasmus have together been applying special admission criteria for their minors. To avoid students not being able to enroll for a minor at one of the other two partner universities because the programme is full, in May the three partners reserve one-third of the places in their minors for one another's students. Please note, to join this easy registration process you can only register for the Minor from 1-31 May. The link to the application form can be found on the following page (between 1-31 May). After May, you can still register for the minor until 1 August, but then by following the registration process of ‘Other students’ (see below).


As a preparation for the minor in September we ask you to submit a survey, for which you will receive an invitation in July. The deadline for completing the survey is 15 August. We will try as much as possible to incorporate the outcomes of the survey into our programme and class discussions.

Registration for an elective (half minor) 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), from 1 May - 1 August 2017. The class number (studie activiteit nummer) is 1225. You will need permission to do so from the exam board for your degree programme.

Other Students

In principle, the minor is also open to students of other universities and universities of professional education (HBO), 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 order of registration.

We need the following documents for registration:
1. Form 'gueststudent', see below, hard copy
2. Bewijs Betaald Collegeld 2017-2018, hard copy
3. Motivation letter, see below, by mail to the minor coordinator.

Registration Proces

  • Form 'gueststudent':
  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 Bewijs Betaald Collegeld 2017-2018) 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).
  • Motivation letter: please discuss the following questions in your letter (about 500 words). Send your motivation letter to the minor coordinator.
  1. Why do you want to follow this minor?
  2. What is your study background, and how does this minor fit in (or not)?
  3. What would you like to learn? (Do you have a specific interest for a topic (climate change, resource scarcity, etc.) or skills (writing papers, presentation, debate, etc.) that you would like to improve?)
  4. How did you know about this minor (website, Facebook, via-via, directory, etc)

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 1 August at the latest).
Since students of Leiden University are given priority, external applicants will have to wait until 1 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 contact the minor coordinator at minor coordinator, or tel: 071 527 1477.