Universiteit Leiden

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Great enthusiasm at opening session LDE Bachelor Honours Programme Sustainability

Tuesday was the opening session of the LDE Bachelor Honours Programme Sustainability. Lecturers introduced themselves, students got to know each other and it was revealed what they will do to contribute to a more sustainable world in the coming months. "I immediately feel like getting started," said student Quinten de Gruijter.

A hurricane of voices rages through the small room as the 36 students engage in conversation. In three-minute speed dating rounds, they get the chance to hear each other out about their academic backgrounds, interests, and why they decided to join the sustainability programme. By their volume and the fact that they continue talking fanatically even during the break, it is clear that this is a group of passionate and enthusiastic students. They will need that passion, because in the coming months, they will be working hard during the LDE Bachelor Honours Programme Sustainability's lectures on various aspects of sustainability, such as climate science, economics and sociology.

Sustainability Challenge

Besides theoretical knowledge, students will also be taught practical skills. This is important, because in January they have to work on their own sustainability challenge.  The students are presented with a sustainability problem from a government or a company and have to design their own appropriate solution. This could be, for example, reducing plastic within a company or emitting less CO2 when transferring employees abroad.

Interdisciplinary aspect

The programme is an initiative of the Honours Academies of Leiden University, TU Delft and Erasmus University. Students and lecturers come from all three universities and the lectures are also given on all three campuses. This allows everyone to benefit from each other's varied knowledge. For example, some students study engineering or biology, while others study social sciences, such as psychology student Vivien Termeer (21). "I have always been interested in sustainability, but I want to learn more about what I can do myself. That's why this project seemed really cool to me.''

The students also had to bring something of their own for the opening lecture: an object related to a sustainability problem in their environment. Quinten de Gruijter (18) had a bottle of water with him. "It's water from a puddle in Zoetermeer. That water is actually meant for swimming, but because wastewater from the city gets into it, it contains too much algae and is unsafe. Local politicians are working on it, but it will take 10 or 15 years to solve it.''

'Gigantic challenge'

Quinten is keen to work on solving this kind of problem himself. The interdisciplinary aspect of this programme immediately attracted him. "Collaborating with students from different universities and programmes seems very valuable to me. Sustainability is just about the biggest task that we as humanity have ever had and we have to solve it in 20 or 30 years. That's a huge challenge. So we really need to start coming up with solutions that work well.''

For Vivien and Quinten, this is exactly what they hope to learn from the programme. "I notice in my environment that people are aware of the problems surrounding sustainability, but often don't know what they can do themselves. In our sustainability challenge, I hope to learn the methods and tools to be able to tackle a sustainability problem.'' Quinten agrees: "That is why I am most looking forward to tackling our own challenge. Even if it were a smaller project, you can still point it out later and show that you made a real contribution.''

Text: Iris Kole
Photos: Buro JP

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