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Honoursmodule: How techy is sustainability

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Study load

6 EC’s


Dr. Frank Nack

Entry requirements

Second and third year students participating in an Honours Programme.


At the end of the course the student can:

  •  Carry out a literature study to describe current issues related to sustainability as well as historical research landmarks and future directions
  • Critique, analyse, and reflect on peer-reviewed research articles that describe real-world systems, with respect to how well they support or facilitate a sustainable society.
  • Identify the stakeholders in a particular sustainability problem space.
  • Explain the basic technologies and architectures for complex systems and assess how technical solutions can work in the face of real-world constraints
  • Reflect and understand how biases direct research
  • systematically carry out and present the own research in an essay and a poster presentation


A sustainable society is a wicked problem, as it addresses sub problems form various domains, such as politics, economics, ecology, technology, ethics, ideology, and so forth. In addition, it applies on different organisational levels, such as region, national, international, society and industry  In this course, we first investigate the problems space to identify which topics we work on in more detail in the remaining 2/3 of the course, with a focus on the question: what is the role of technology and what can it provide to help building a sustainable society. The aim of this course is to get a better understanding of how far a sustainable society can go and under which circumstances technology is a necessary part. 

The 4 first sessions cover the following topics:

  • Sustainability – definitions, concepts and personal views
  • Introduction to complexity and intelligence
  • Introduction to services
  • Introduction to sensor, data, and mobile technology

The remaining 8 lectures will be based on the problems that were chosen to be investigated.

Teaching Formats

The course is designed for interaction, collaborative and explorative work. Seminars are considered as room for the explanation and discussion of essential concepts and examples of various forms of sustainable systems. They are also considered as a space to discuss research directions students develop. The aim is to reflect on approaches with respect to their usefulness and usability.

The different formats are used in mixed settings:

  • Seminar
  • Selfstudy
  • Work independently on project/ thesis
  • Guidance / feedback moment


At the end of the course each student has to provide an essay of 4000 words that discusses one of the addressed topics of the course in detail. The essay has to define a problem space, provide an overview of current theory and the description of a potential technological solution of one of the addressed problems.

Study material

The study material for the first 4 weeks will be provided on Canvas. After that the material collection is considered as a group effort. 

Number of participants:

Max. 25

Recommended prior knowledge

As this course naturally has a interdisciplinary character, no particular knowledge is requested beforehand. If the interested student has some programming experience that would be an advantage but it is no must.


Check Datanose for the exact information.


Registration is possible for students participating in an Honours programme via an online registration form which will be made available on December 1, 10 am till December 5, 11 pm on this website. 

Placement will be at random and within two weeks students will hear whether they are placed for a course. 

There is NO guarantee for placement if you register after December 5, so make sure you register on time! 

For questions about registration please email to: Honours-iis@uva.nl 


The course will be taught in English.

Feiten & cijfers
Vorm Honoursonderwijs
Studielast 6 EC, 14 weken
Voertaal Engels
Toelatingseisen Open
Start Maart