Studying Sustainable Chemistry at Leuphana

Studying Sustainable Chemistry at Leuphana

Leuphana University of Lüneburg offers two part-time, flexible degree programmes with a focus on sustainability.

The following is a translation from German

Read the Original in German on CHEManager here.

Chemistry - as a science and industry - is indispensable for our prosperity and our health. In its various facets, it is one of the most important building blocks for a sustainable future. However, this requires a different understanding and practice in chemistry. The Institute of Sustainable Chemistry at Leuphana University offers degree programmes that teach these ways of thinking.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, individuals and organisations developed numerous ideas for a chemistry that produces environmentally friendly products in an energy-saving way that is safe for people and nature. The approaches manifested themselves in 1996 in the EU chemicals legislation and in 1998 in the twelve principles of green chemistry.

Chemical synthesis according to the principles of green chemistry, with less energy and waste and fewer hazardous substances and processes, is an important building block for a sustainable future for chemistry. However, it alone is by no means sufficient for chemistry to fulfil the requirements of a circular economy in the future or to make a sustainable contribution to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. This requires more comprehensive approaches that go far beyond improving individual syntheses or molecules.

The Leuphana Campus building with students outdoors

Education for Sustainable Chemistry

Sustainable Chemistry, for example, does not focus first on the products, but on the question of the required service and function. It first asks whether a chemical product is needed or whether there are alternatives. In terms of sustainability, it also takes into account all interest groups, ethical and social aspects along the entire life cycle of the services and the associated chemical products. Only in this way can corresponding changes in research and application towards more sustainability take place successfully. Until recently, there was a lack of appropriate educational programmes, not only in Germany but also internationally.

For this reason, the Institute of Sustainable Chemistry (INSC) at Leuphana University Lüneburg, in close cooperation with the International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Center (ISC3) and the Leuphana Professional School, developed the two part-time degree programmes M. Sc. Sustainable Chemistry (MSc SChem) and MBA Sustainable Chemistry Management (MBA SCM), two unique part-time degree programmes worldwide. The degree programmes are offered entirely in English, can be studied almost entirely online and have national and international accreditations. Both degree programmes equip decision-makers with the necessary skills and knowledge and create an interface between theory and practice, between university research, industrial application and state regulation. In this way, they make an important contribution to chemistry with a key function for a sustainable future.

Sustainable chemistry first poses the question of whether a chemical product is needed or whether there are alternatives.

Master's degree programme in Sustainable Chemistry opens up career prospects

The Master of Science Sustainable Chemistry (MSc SChem) was launched at Leuphana University Lüneburg in March 2020. Here, we provide our students with a comprehensive understanding of the possibilities and limits of green chemistry and sustainable chemistry and their importance for the circular economy. They deal with both the molecular and material basis for sustainability, e.g. with regard to toxicology, environmental behaviour as well as substance, material and product design, renewable and non-renewable resources, such as metals, as well as global material flows, methods of sustainability assessment and approaches to Sustainable Chemistry and EU legislation relevant to chemistry and current developments. International conventions, UNEP activities and alternative business models are also covered. The Sustainable Chemistry degree programme is aimed at people who have already studied chemistry or closely related degree programmes at Bachelor's or Master's level. On this basis, our students can critically reflect on the disciplinary boundaries of chemistry and overcome them, i.e. understand chemistry in the context of sustainability and apply it in practice.

The skills they acquire open up new career prospects for graduates - in science, companies, authorities, associations or NGOs. Through our alumni work, they remain networked as change agents in the field of sustainability, can exchange ideas and support each other and continue to receive documents and information on current topics.

In 2021, the programme was recognised as an SDG Good Practice Example by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) for its contribution to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals of quality education (SDG 4), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), sustainable production and consumption (SDG 12), and partnerships to achieve the goals (SDG 17). It forms the blueprint for other new degree programmes, such as the MBA Sustainable Chemistry Management (MBA SCM).

The MBA - Sustainable Chemistry for non-chemists

The MBA Sustainable Chemistry Management was offered for the first time in March 2022. While the Master of Science is aimed at people with a degree in chemistry and closely related disciplines, academic training in chemistry is not mandatory for admission to the MBA. In order for the transformation to a sustainable future to succeed, socio-economic mechanisms and aspects at all decision-making levels - in management, executive positions in the chemical industry and in public authorities - must be recognised and taken into account when implementing Sustainable Chemistry. This is where the MBA comes in and combines the content of Sustainable Chemistry with practice-orientated sustainability management.

The two specialisations "Management of Sustainable Chemistry" and "Sustainable Chemistry" are not isolated in the MBA curriculum. Instead, the topics of chemistry, sustainability and management are closely interlinked through a step-by-step structure and cross-linking, so that after three semesters graduates are equipped as "professional generalists" with sound skills in sustainability management and specific knowledge in Sustainable Chemistry.

Highly flexible study conditions for working professionals

On both degree programmes, students are taught by renowned international academics and experts from public authorities and industry. The online distance learning concept enables them to study while working and with maximum flexibility - both in terms of time and location. The minimum study periods are two years for the MSc SChem and one and a half years for the MBA SCM. However, the duration of the programme can be extended to up to five years if professional or private circumstances so require.

In addition, joint modules between the MBA and the Master of Science, such as "From green to Sustainable Chemistry", enable students on both programmes to exchange ideas and network. It is not always necessary or desirable to complete a full degree programme. In such cases, specific modules can be selected that lead to a certificate degree on the one hand, but are also fully recognised if the decision is later made to acquire a Master's or MBA degree.

New first degree programme "Sustainability: Resources Materials, Chemistry" from 2024

In consistent continuation of this philosophy, a new first degree programme "Sustainability: Resources Materials, Chemistry" (MSc) will be launched from the winter semester 2024/2025. It is designed to give young people access to the fascinating field of Sustainable Chemistry. It is one of four subject-specific Master's degree programmes on sustainability that are linked to each other, e.g. through a joint module on the basis of sustainability science or a transdisciplinary research project.

Multiple nominations for the German Sustainability Award 2023

Leuphana University Lüneburg is one of the three institutions nominated in two categories for the final of the German Sustainability Award, which will be presented in Düsseldorf in November. In the area of education and research, the jury described Leuphana as a pioneer in sustainable university design because it has been working successfully for many years to make the university as sustainable and socially responsible as possible.

Leuphana was the only university to make it to the final in the area of education and training. It owes this above all to its part-time Master's degree programmes with a focus on sustainability. By qualifying specialists and managers, it provides a direct transfer of sustainability topics to the economy.