PhD courses: Environmental Sustainability and Societal Transformation - KULT8123/8124

PhD courses:

Environmental Sustainability and Societal Transformation

PhD courses

Students cooperating in front of computer
Illustration: Colourbox

Sustainability is an increasing concern of society and a significant impetus to change teaching and research. In the university context, this requires interdisciplinary knowledge that may be used to widely integrate sustainability thinking in scientific and scholarly work.

This course provides PhD students with concepts and tools to understand what environmental sustainability (ES) is, the kinds of challenges it raises, the actors involved in such issues, and how academics can help initiate societal transformations towards this goal.

With an interdisciplinary approach, the course takes the model of strong sustainability as a point of departure, i.e., the biosphere is considered a life-supporting system that restricts and renders possible human activity. Consequently, the course will explore how this affects technological and scientific development, economic issues, policymaking, and the organisation of society.

Students are introduced to ES with the UN's sustainable development goals as background, to the history of ‘sustainable development’, environmental concerns and environmental movements.

The course presents students with critical accounts of the concept of sustainability, including potential controversies between sustainability concerns and the conservation of nature. This includes an introduction to the concept of biodiversity and biodiversity policy as well as to environmental ethics.

This course engages with the challenges of providing sustainability measurements, and methods and approaches to assess the sustainability of industrial products and processes and human lifestyles (industrial ecology). It also provides an overview of theories and approaches to the field of sustainability transitions, including a focus on participation and engagement, innovation, circular economy, and policymaking for sustainable energy, climate mitigation and urban sustainability.

Finally, the course will prepare for the writing of individual essays, which, together with participation in the course, forms the course’s formal approval.

The course is organised through four full days of lectures and group work on April 15 and 16, and May 4 and 5 in 2021. If the course has to be held digitally, the days will be shorter.

Assessment form

Written essay


The PhD course is co-funded by FME NTRANS, NTNU Sustainability, and NTNU – dept. of interdisciplinary studies of culture

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Times and places

Times and places

Course dates and locations 2021


  • April 15 and 16 (Thursday and Friday)
  • May 4 and 5 (Tuesday and Wednesday)


Room D104, Dragvoll campus, or digitally – depending on the situation in April / May