Master’s in Sustainability Transformations

Multiple crises such as global warming, biodiversity loss, dwindling resources, and increasing poverty are stark realities today – and a consequence of how wealthy countries have structured the global economy and societal systems. The pivotal question is: how can we successfully organize a comprehensive and targeted transformation that tackles all three dimensions of sustainability: social, environmental, and economic?

Addressing this question is the focus of the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)’s new Master’s in Sustainability Transformations, which starts in 2024. In response to today’s urgent development challenges, the programme’s purpose is to educate students to become proficient in building pathways to sustainable futures and in spearheading transformations.

The study programme is inter- and transdisciplinary, and focuses on Education for Sustainable Development and transformative science. Rigorous training in research methodologies ensures that the graduates are well-equipped to approach complex sustainability problems with a robust and critical scientific mindset. The learning environment is enriched by innovative teaching methods: From serious games to interactive modules with practice partners, the teaching methods are designed to inspire creative problem-solving and dynamic project management. Furthermore, the study programme nurtures students holistically – cultivating resilience, inter-cultural awareness, and an ethic of self-care to sustain the passion for long-term impact.

The study programme, taught in English, comprises 120 ECTS and is international in outlook, with a diverse student body and team of lecturers.

Learn more about the new MSc in Sustainability Transformations in this Flyer.
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Basic information
Degree: Master of Science in Sustainability Transformations, University of Bern
Number of credits: 120 ECTS credits
Degree programs: Mono 120 ECTS credits
Duration: 4 semesters
Language: English
Beginning of studies: Fall semester

The Master’s in Sustainability Transformations comprises 120 ECTS and corresponds to a workload of four semesters of full-time study. You must hold at least a Bachelor’s degree (BSc or BA) for admission to the programme (please see the “Requirements” section for more detail on admissions).

Programme content

This cutting-edge MSc will equip you with the scientific and social foundations needed to address global challenges of sustainable development. You will gain a thorough understanding of the state of research in this field, including how research can contribute to overcoming the associated societal, economic, and environmental challenges. During this interdisciplinary programme, you will acquire the competences required to conceive of and implement sustainability transformations at various scales. By competences we mean not only academic knowledge, but also professional skills and critical awareness needed to bridge the gap between science and policy and tackle the great sustainability challenges of our time.

Each of these elements – knowledge, skills, and awareness – is described below:

Academic knowledge

Systems knowledge: Knowledge about complex social, economic, and ecological interrelationships and their interacting effects. In other words: understanding how systems (i.e. the complex interactions between environment, society, and economy) work.

Target knowledge: Knowledge about relevant objectives, including how these objectives are selected over others (i.e. justifying selection, prioritizing objectives). Science can provide direction for steering towards sustainable development.

Transformation knowledge: Knowledge about realistic solutions, options for action, strategies, and measures. Scientific contributions (e.g. in the form of rules, solutions, measures, cultural practices, or technologies) to promote sustainable development. Transformation knowledge includes monitoring and reviewing the achievement of goals, using disciplinary and interdisciplinary scientific methods.

Professional skills

The professional skills needed to conceive of and implement sustainability transformations are diverse and depend on the situation in question. They are anchored in the standard educational programme of each discipline, and include the ability to compose targeted texts for different audiences, processing data using spreadsheets or statistics programmes, and finding creative ways of presenting data visually. Other basic skills include researching and evaluating relevant information, using various technologies to facilitate communication, and mastering subject-specific methods of data collection.

Critical awareness

Critical awareness equips you with the ability to question, assess, and navigate the subjective theories (i.e. worldviews, ideas, opinions, beliefs, convictions, etc.) you may have developed through the influences of socialization (e.g. through your upbringing, in your social circles etc.). Through critical awareness, you can put these personal convictions into perspective, comparing them with scientific theories and drawing valuable conclusions for your actions.

Programme objectives

Upon successful completion of the programme, students are able to:

  • Respond to topics and challenges of sustainable development and sustainability transformations in an inter- and transdisciplinary way, applying the specialist and methodological competences they have acquired through research and application.
  • Work independently on issues of sustainable development and sustainability transformations.
  • Analyse global societal challenges of sustainable development; the status, challenges, and contribution of research; as well as general (analytical and transformational) approaches – and relate these to one another.
  • Apply inter- and transdisciplinary theories; analytical and transformational approaches; and models for action, strategies, and tools to sustainable development.
  • Independently design and implement projects and collaborate in inter- and multidisciplinary teams as well as with actors from science and practice to achieve goals, communicating these goals in a targeted way, and critically reflecting on actions. 
  • Work towards an alternative future that meets the existential challenges of global development and initiate, design, and implement transformation processes.

Based on the above programme objectives, graduates will be qualified to promote sustainability transformations through their professional activities in any number of areas, including academia, business, policymaking, administration, or civil society initiatives.

The Master’s in Sustainability Transformations is worth 120 ECTS credits. This total is comprised of 66 compulsory ECTS credits (with 30 ECTS credits reserved for the Master’s thesis) and 54 elective ECTS credits. The programme duration is four semesters (two years) of full-time study.

The study programme is divided into 9 modules. Click on the modules below to find out more about their objectives and content.

Find out more about the content and structure of the study programme in this video:

Interested in applying for the study programme?

The application process consists of:

Once you have completed the online assessment, your application dossier has to be submitted to the Admissions office and will be handed to the study directorate of the Sustainability Transformations program for evaluation.

The following academic qualifications are required for admission to the Master of Science in Sustainability Transformations (mono):

a) A Bachelor's degree with 60 ECTS Credits in sustainable development from a Swiss university or an equivalent academic achievement.
b) A Bachelor's degree from a recognized foreign university with equivalent qualifications.
c) A Bachelor's degree from a university of applied sciences in accordance with the university's regulations.

Additional knowledge and skills can be required that were not part of the completed Bachelor's program. These additional attainments are laid out separately in the form of conditions. Admission can be granted if doing the additional achievement of maximum of 30 ECTS Credits will make it possible to meet the requirements for completing the Master's program.

The respective ECTS Credits are listed separately in the diploma supplement as additional achievement.

There is no guarantee of acceptance to the program. The number of places is limited; a maximum of 30 students are admitted per academic year.

Admission is based on the application documents, an assessment, and an admission interview with the Directorate of Studies. Definite admission depends on the admission interview.

Language requirements

The language of tuition in the MSc in Sustainability Transformations is English. Depending on the audience, some courses may be taught in German (only if all of the students present speak German). Students are expected to have an advanced level of English (at least CEFR level B2) to participate successfully in the study programme. They must be able to comprehend written English, actively participate in discussions, and produce texts in English. The Master’s thesis is usually written in English.

The Language Center of the University of Bern provides classes in Academic English

Current UniBE students

Apply for a change to the M Sc in Sustainability Transformations, Universität Bern by self-service as part of the re-registration for the next semester.

Renewal of semester registration → Self-service
Assessment
Admission Online Assessment

Please e-mail your application dossier (as one PDF document) to the Sustainability Transformations study administration (sustrafo-admin.cde@unibe.ch).
There is no need to send the documents to the Admissions Office (ZIB).

Recognition of academic achievements
Procedure and timing of the renewal of semester registration
   

Application with a Swiss degree

Online application
Assessment
Admission Online Assessment
Steps from application to registration

Application with an international degree

Online application
CHECKLIST - documents for your application / important information
Admission Online Assessment
Steps from application to registration

Upon successful review of your dossier, you might be invited to an online interview. Interviews are expected to take place between one to three months after application deadline.

For questions regarding application and admission, please contact the Admissions Office.

The MSc in Sustainability Transformations equips you for diverse roles across academia, business, policymaking, administration, and civil society initiatives. As a scientist and a citizen, you will graduate with the expertise to navigate pressing global challenges and creative transformative solutions for alternative futures. Your sought-after skills will pave the way for a career in high-level positions, whether as a sustainability expert in national and international administrations or in NGOs/CSOs, business, or academia*. Possibilities are many, and encompass transformation research, sustainability leadership in companies and political institutions, or in roles that bridge the gap between science and policy.

* For example, graduates can apply to do a doctorate within the International Graduate School North-South.