Understanding Sustainability

Understanding Sustainability

Course dates:
5 August, 2024 to 23 August, 2024
Fee advantages:
Full fee
Multidisciplinary, Social Sciences
Application deadline:
Monday, 1 April, 2024
University of Copenhagen
Copenhagen, Denmark

General information

This is a course on the very fundamentals of sustainability and sustainable development, giving eight central perspectives.

In recent decades, it has become increasingly evident that a key challenge for the global community is to create a more sustainable future. While the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Paris Agreement from 2015 are examples of significant international efforts to achieve a more sustainable future, conflict and disagreement remain at all levels of society about what constitutes “sustainability” and how to achieve it. Accordingly, it requires an understanding of the wide variety of ways in which sustainability is defined, conceptualized, understood and used among different sciences, stakeholders and decision makers, in order to actively engage in this contested domain of sustainability in practice.

The overall purpose of the course is to provide BSc students from natural science and social science backgrounds with a roadmap to understand different concepts of sustainability and sustainable development, enabling students to qualify and reflect upon sustainability aspects in their own education and future professional practice from an interdisciplinary perspective. The course will help to disentangle the complex notion of sustainability in order to assist students in navigating within the diverging sustainability agendas that they are likely to face both within their own disciplines as well as in the broader society. The course will outline important underlying empirical and value based assumptions as well as challenges with and potentials of a wide range of different conceptualizations, interpretations and practical uses of sustainability. Offering a broad overview of different theoretical perspectives on sustainability from the social sciences and humanities to broader systems thinking, the course will facilitate productive critical thinking and reflection on both the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainability. This includes inherent tradeoffs and synergies associated with practical operationalization and implementation of sustainability, e.g. in relation to the UN SDGs.

Ensuring a strong link from theory to practice, every year the course will focus on specific cases, topics or themes of particular current interest. In an interdisciplinary setting considering e.g. both social, cultural, economic, environmental, political, governance and philosophical perspectives, the identified sustainability challenges as well as proposed solutions will be addressed, for instance relating to the SDGs or other operational frameworks. Additionally, guest from private companies, NGOs or public agencies working with implementation of sustainability in practice will present their perspectives on and efforts in implementing sustainability in the organizations they represent. This will be followed up by group-work aiming to analyze and discuss the organizations’ sustainability plans in relation to the different perspectives introduced in the course. The guests and specific themes will change from year to year. Themes could for instance be climate change mitigation and adaptation, energy production, food production, transportation systems, waste and recycling, nature protection and biodiversity, etc.


Please note that the summer courses are non-residential. Participants are responsible for finding and funding accommodation during their stay in Copenhagen.

You can use different online portals to search for accommodation, such as:

Hostel World

UCPH Housing Foundation (acceptance letter from UCPH required).



ECTS accreditation

Bachelor level

7,5 ECTS