Spirit and purpose of the MSD

Due to the unique nature of the Master's Degree in Sustainable Development MSD, the University of Basel is taking a leading role in the field of teaching sustainable development in Switzerland. In the context of political obligations and the UN Sustainable Development Goals Basel is making a trend setting contribution since implementing the MSD in 2005.
In fact, the story of the MSD goes back to 1986 when the Sandoz chemical accident took place at the Schweizerhalle (close to Basel). As a consequence, a foundation called Man-Society-Environment (Mensch-Gesellschaft-Umwelt) has been established in 1992 to foster consciousness and improve the interface of society and sciences regarding issues on environment and sustainability impacts. The foundation financed research projects as well as praxis oriented teaching at the University of Basel until 2005 before being integrated into the university itself.

In the meantime, Sustainable Development has become a main research topic within the University of Basel. Furthermore, the Sustainability Office integrates sustainability as an interdisciplinary topic into all areas of the University of Basel in close cooperation with the faculties and departments.

Among the teaching programs in Switzerland and elsewhere, the MSD has consolidated its exceptional position as a specialized master’s degree. The MSD focuses on the interrelationship between the use of natural resources and the development of society, while taking into account ecological responsibility, economic productivity and social solidarity. The program takes thereby its orientation from the understanding that sustainable development has “(…) to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987: Our Common Future).


Study objectives

The MSD is a research-based study program. It qualifies graduates to approach the concept of sustainable development on a scientific basis, and to express praxis oriented solutions. They will be able to deepen aspects of their first degree discipline that are relevant for sustainability issues, and become capable of understanding the interactions of natural, societal and economic processes in achieving sustainable growth and sustainable use of resources.

Students will be empowered to articulate questions regarding sustainability connected to natural, societal and economic processes, and to analyse them scientifically, taking into account the perspectives of the various disciplines. Graduates will be distinguished by their ability to apply the appropriate instruments and methods to theory driven research, analysis, and in developing new approaches. Details on the study objectives are defined in the study guidelines.

This specialized master's degree aims to educate future decision makers in fields of activities such as research, politics, industry, business, administration, etc., enabling them to deal with professional consideration, implementation, and management of sustainability issues. To achieve this, our students and alumni must be prepared to grapple with complex interrelations in an interdisciplinary manner (for examples see alumni testimonials).