Towards a climate-neutral campus: First Strategic Challenge achieves great results

In the summer 2022, eight master’s students presented their results for the first ECIU University Strategic Challenge. The presentations marked the successful completion of the six-month challenge “Climate neutral Campus in Europe” that was hosted by Hamburg University of Technology. Some results of the Strategic Challenge have now been published on the ECIU website.

The challenge was a combination of working on an individual Master’s thesis and simultaneously working on a team challenge. Based on the given Big Idea of “Climate neutral Campus in Europe”, the students formed teams and defined a specific challenge for their team.

One group developed an approach on how to foster sustainable travel choices for students with the use of digital technologies. Another group examined the integrity and transparency of university sustainability and climate action plans and made suggestions for best practices for sustainable universities. The third group developed scenarios towards a climate-neutral campus, which resulted in an approach on how more sustainable land, infrastructures, and buildings can help reduce CO2 emissions.

The challenge was tackled by students from University of Trento (Italy), University of Aveiro (Portugal), Linköping University (Sweden), Kaunas University of Technology (Lithuania), University of Stavanger (Norway), Dublin City University (Ireland) and Hamburg University of Technology (Germany). Early this spring, participants had the opportunity to meet on the campus of Hamburg University of Technology to work collaboratively on their challenge (read more on the TUHH-website).

Combination of experiences with positive results

The Strategic Challenge offered an exceptional opportunity for master’s students to combine two experiences: collaboratively work on a societal challenge in an international and multidisciplinary team, while individually writing their Master’s thesis that is linked to the topic of the challenge. Throughout the whole process, the students cooperated online with one another, and combined research and activities for their individual Master’s thesis. This combination helped students to see their thesis topic in the wider perspective of their challenge subject.  

“We are delighted and impressed by the students’ results and the active engagement in the challenge on top of their Master’s theses”, says Dr. Nadine Stahlberg, coordinator of the Strategic Challenge at the Hamburg University of Technology. “It is great to see that the framework of the Strategic Challenge provides space for so many inspiring ideas. The activities for the students’ Master’s theses and their team challenge are mutually beneficial.”

The students also evaluate their participation positively. “Taking part in the ECIU challenge was a very worthwhile time. I met like-minded people and challenged myself both academically and personally. I’m very pleased with the outcome of the Strategic Challenge and it strengthened my Master’s experience”, summarizes Shannen Plunkett from Dublin City University her participation. In the final evaluation of the project all students agree that it has been worthwhile for them to participate in the Strategic Challenge. In addition, nearly all state that their respective Master’s thesis has benefitted from their work in the Strategic Challenge.

The supervisors of the Master’s thesis also see the participation of their respective master student as a benefit. They mention that they have observed an increasing motivation of their students when writing their Master’s thesis. Supervisors also mention a positive effect on the quality of the theses due to the students’ networking and being involved in a broader context.

If you are interested in learning more about the Strategic Challenge 2022 you can watch a summary of the students’ final presentations at the top ↑.

In addition, you can download the final product of the team “Integrity and transparency of university sustainability and climate action plans”. The team wrote a report on their findings and shared their suggestions for best practices for sustainable universities.(read more on the ECIU-website)