Water, clean energy and climate change - these are the major environmental issues of this century. At the University of Twente’s Frisian campus, students learn about how to get new solutions in these areas off the ground. Yesterday, the programme celebrated the graduation of its 20th student cohort, and students who have successfully completed the Master's degree in Environmental and Energy Management in the past academic year were presented with their degree.
Policy makers of the future
‘We prepare our students to become environmental officers or water governance officers, for example,’ explains Maarten Arentsen, associate professor of energy innovation at the Department of Governance and Technology for Sustainability (CSTM) at the University of Twente. ‘We try to teach the students in the Master's programme in such a way that they are able to initiate and implement complex change processes with a technological component in an effective way. You could call it change management with a socio-technological perspective.’
The themes of the environment, energy and water feature the most prominently. ‘This is a social science programme with a technology component,’ explains Arentsen. ‘We teach our students about the context of technology in the debate on sustainability in society, and we also look at how technology and the environment relate to each other.’
Roots in Friesland
The M-EEM programme (as it is known) now has firm roots in Friesland. The old town hall in Franeker was the programme’s first home in 1998, which was then still known as the Cartesius Institute, named after the French scholar Descartes. The move to Leeuwarden came in 2005, where the programme has been located ever since.
There is close cooperation with local and regional authorities, knowledge institutions and companies in the province. Rinske Koster, programme coordinator: ‘The assignments that students work on are based on important issues in the northern regions. They reflect the concepts that the programme was originally based on.’ Local government has supported the arrival of the programme due to its content and focus, as well as its added value for the labour market.
Arentsen: ‘The circular economy has become a hugely important theme in the region in recent years. And from the perspective of energy management, this is an extremely relevant question for our students. For example, we have been able to analyse a large number of cases involving the use of residual heat from industry. That provides valuable insight, both for students and for our partners.’
Not all successful students will be able to attend the ceremony this week, which marks an important milestone and will therefore be particularly special. The programme has a strong international character and a number of students have already returned home or found employment elsewhere. A large number of the students come from Africa, Asia and South America, with a particularly high number of students from Indonesia because the programme includes a double degree with the University of Padjadjaran in Bandung.
Funding for the programme was changed in 2016 to make it more attractive to Dutch students, too, with tuition fees being brought more closely into line with other Master's programmes. The mixed nature of the group lends an extra dimension to the programme. Koster: ‘Students from all over the world are able to exchange their ideas on a whole range of sustainability themes in Europe and elsewhere in the world. They also learn from each other. This exchange of ideas is very valuable for the sustainability transition across the world.’