The ETH Sustainability Summer School Programme: an incubator to support change agents for sustainability

Catherine Lippuner*, B.J. Pearce, Christine Bratrich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) is one of the world's leading universities in the fields of technology and natural science and the largest technical university in Switzerland. More than 18,500 students from over 110 countries are studying at ETH Zurich. About 500 professors teach and conduct research in the fields of engineering, architecture, mathematics, natural sciences, and system-oriented sciences as well as economics, management, and the social sciences. ETH Zurich's mission in education is to equip its students with the highest level of knowledge and skills; the ability to feel at ease and act in complex and rapidly evolving environments, while at the same time being able to maintain an understanding for ethical and cultural values. Accordingly, the ETH Sustainability Summer Programme aims to foster students’ ability to innovate and act as change agents for sustainability. Collaborations between different departments and competence centres at ETH Zurich as well as national and international partner organizations provide an interdisciplinary environment that offers insight into various aspects of sustainable development. Focus is not only on providing theoretical knowledge but also on providing practical, hands-on experience through specific case studies. Since the first ETH Sustainability summer school was held in 2010, more than 160 students have joined. Participants have come from 34 different countries, 42 universities and 44 disciplines. Students have been able to work in diverse cultural and environmental settings — in Switzerland, Ethiopia and Singapore. Renowned experts from 47 external organizations, including academia, industry, public administration and NGOs have shared their knowledge and expertise with the participants. Here we evaluate and discuss the challenges and successes of the programme over the past five years from a practitioner's perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-43
JournalCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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