Programme Details

Islands and Sustainability

The ISLANDS programme builds on the existing Research Master in Spatial Sciences programme at the University of Groningen (RUG), and in particular on the track Islands and Sustainability . Being part of the regular Research Master in Spatial Sciences, the ISLANDS programme provides a thorough and multi-faceted training of research skills for social science and environmental research. It includes the course “Individual Research Training” supervised by senior staff, training to work in multi-disciplinary research group, it involves taking a series of qualitative, quantitative and multi-method courses, as well courses “Scientific Reading Debating and Reflecting” and “Scientific English Writing” and “Research Process and Proposal Writing”. In addition, students do (continuous) reading and debating of Islands and Sustainability literature, while they also partake in Islands and Sustainability research experiences (at least in one island but potentially several islands). Students have the option to conduct research as part of the course “Joint Multidisciplinary Research Project” involving the international Wadden area in the Netherlands and Germany together with our partner the Wadden Academy.

Following the first semester in Groningen, students they have a compulsory mobility period of 15-30 ECTS at one of the island-based partner universities: University of the Aegean (UAEGEAN), the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) or the University of Iceland (ICELAND).

After the mobility students return to Groningen for the first half of the second year.

They end their two years of study with a 30 ECTS Master thesis conducted during a second compulsory period of mobility at the same island-based partner that they visited in year 1. This research thesis will commonly involve on-site empirical island research based in one of the island campuses of the partner universities.

The academic programme of ISLANDS represents an integrated and well-structured curriculum that can provide students with a strong multidisciplinary background of knowledge and systematic understanding of current scientific theories, concepts and principles of islands as special and privileged places and of the natural and human-induced processes that are essential for understanding their past, present and future.

The programme will also foster understanding existing political, economic, legal, geopolitical, and social implications of human interactions with the environment in a specific context; that of islands. Students will also learn how the public and private sectors can handle environmental issues on islands and mainstream the environment in business and social strategies.

Apart from knowledge, students will acquire thinking and research skills that include the ability to:

(a) critically analyze environmental issues and develop holistic perspectives on their relationships with human activities on islands,

(b) evaluate environmental policies and policy instruments in various island social and economic contexts, and

(c) develop and evaluate environmental protection strategies for private and public island organizations and assess development projects, plans and policies as well as products and technologies from spatial and environmental perspectives.

At the same time, students will be able through extended group work and projects to independently formulate relevant research topics, develop preliminary hypotheses and ideas, conduct data collection and analysis, design proper investigation procedures and prepare scientifically sound and effective reports on research outcomes.

The professional skills that students will acquire include training in environmental science, spatial analysis and statistics, economics, policy, law, culture, place branding and marketing. Students will acquire skills to critically analyse islands and related literature, collaborate in small groups in economic and environmental planning projects, construct simple or advanced environmental models, develop maps and GIS products, and work with spatial statistical data and tools.

Finally, the transferable skills that students will acquire include the use of library, electronic and on-line information resources, the development of written and oral presentations to specialist and non-specialist audiences, the ability to work in multidisciplinary, multicultural teams and speak, read and write English at a professional and academic level.

ISLANDS focuses on two main topics:

(I) the development of knowledge on island particularities, how they affect islands’ socio-economically and environmentally, and what kind of policies are suitable to address their specific problems related to insular jurisdictions and

(II) the development of tools, skills and technology in order to reduce the gap between theory and practice concerning sustainability.

The know-how in a wide range of fields related to island topics, and the capabilities of the team of researchers and professors involved in the ISLANDS programme can foster interdisciplinary in cooperation and technology development to develop sustainable policies in the medium and long-term.

Programme Structure

The programme consists of four semesters (two years), in total 120 ECTS, 30 ECTS in each semester with one compulsory period of mobility in the second half of the second semester (15-30 ECTS) and another one throughout the second semester of the second year (30 ECTS).

In particular, based on the existing University of Groningen Research Master track on Islands and Sustainability, the ISLANDS study programme will be delivered in English organised in four half semesters:

1a (from 1 September to mid-November), 1b (from mid-November to end of January), 2a (1 February – end of March) and 2b (1 April until the end of the academic year, including the summer).

In the first year, during the first two quarters (half semesters 1a, 1b) all ISLANDS students will be based at the University of Groningen and will choose from a set of set courses adding up to 10 ECTS in Advanced and Specialized Research Methods and Techniques and another 15 ECTS of courses in Thematic Theoretical Specialisation. They will also take carry out a 5 ECTS Joint Multidisciplinary Research Project (JMRP) and will also take another 10 ECTS for an Individual Research Training course (IRT). Depending on the destination of the mobility, the JMRP and IRT components might be taught in either Groningen or at the island partner in the second half of the first year. In addition, a key integrative aspect of the ISLANDS course (taught with contributions of all partners) will be a course entitled Scientific Reading, Debating and Reflecting (5 ECTS) taught in semester 1a, 1b and 2a.

During the second year of the ISLANDS programme all students will be based at the University Groningen for the first semester where they will take 5 ECTS for a module on Research Process and Proposal Writing, a 5 ECTS Advanced Research Skills module, a 5 ECTS course on Scientific English Writing. They will also have to select additional modules (not those taken in year 1) accounting for a total 10 ECTS on Thematic Theoretical Specialisation and a 5 ECTS course on Advanced and Specialized Research Methods and Techniques in the Social, Economic and Spatial Sciences with contributions (in the form of guest lectures from Faculty members) from the island-based partner universities. In the second half of the second year the second compulsory period of mobility will take place in an island-based partner university where all ISLANDS students will work on their Master thesis with additional supervision from the University of Groningen and other partners as needed.

Throughout the second year there will also be monthly meetings (but with no ECTS) and workshops on Scientific Reading, Debating and Reflecting. It is envisaged that academic staff from the island-based universities will contribute to the teaching of the courses Individual Research Training and Joint Multidisciplinary Research Project, via online teaching and/or teaching visits at Groningen as well as possible student travel (depending on the nature of the projects undertaken and supervised) to the island-based universities for periods up to three weeks during the first semester of the first year; such travel will be carefully organised around the teaching timetable to ensure that there will be no clashes with lectures and exams at the University of Groningen). In some cases, these courses are fully taken at the island-based university.

The ISLANDS programme is offered as a double-degree programme. Upon successful completion of the joint programme students will receive a degree from the University of Groningen (with an acknowledgement that this is an ISLANDS programme) and a degree from the island-based partner University where the student undertook the compulsory period of mobility. In addition, on receipt of both diplomas, the University of Groningen will also issue a certificate stating that they have completed the double degree on the basis of having completed the two constituent single degree programs (which will be named in this certificate).

Learning Outcomes

The ISLANDS objectives aim to meet relevant academic and societal needs by providing graduates with the following skills and competences:

Theoretical attitudes and understanding, research skills

A. Sound knowledge and thorough understanding of important contemporary interdisciplinary issues and theories in spatial sciences with a special focus in Islands and Sustainability. A detailed knowledge of important issues in the area of interest, including relevant theories and subjects in disciplines related to the University of Groningen Faculty of Spatial Sciences Research Programme, towards Wellbeing, Innovation and Spatial Transformation (tWIST), highlighting strong links to Islands and Sustainability.

B. Sound knowledge and understanding of theoretical models, concepts and frameworks that help explain and interpret spatial, societal and institutional phenomena and dynamics.

C. The ability to translate knowledge of contemporary interdisciplinary issues and theoretical models, concepts and frameworks into the development of appropriate research questions and research designs, with a focus and special interest in issues and models, concepts and frameworks around Islands and Sustainable Development

D. Expertise and experience in the formulation and implementation of a research project (with special attention to issues pertaining to Islands and Sustainability), i.e. a clearly formulated research problem that is original, while building on the state of the art research in the field and related academic disciplines, and firmly supported by the relevant literature in the field.<

E. The ability to position one’s own research questions in the relevant philosophical and theoretical debates in the field of regional studies.

F. A helicopter view of suitable and feasible research designs and methods of data collection in different types of research, such as field, survey and/or experimental research, as well as expertise and experience in the adequacy, applicability and factual application of such research designs and methods of data collection.

G. The ability to choose and apply appropriate research methodology, methods and techniques (with a particular emphasis in methods relevant to Islands and Sustainability analysis), and to critically evaluate the resulting research outcomes.

H. Expertise and experience in the integration of theory and multi-method empirical research (‘theory-guided empirical research’); data-guided and theory-guided theory building; experience in the entire process of research, including reporting on the research results.

I. The ability to apply theories and results in spatial sciences and related disciplines with special attention to research on Islands and Sustainability in an original way to policy and scientific research issues in the context of both disciplinary and societal frameworks.

General academic skills

A. The ability to reflect and act independently and impartially when applying and developing knowledge and judgements; while taking into account social and environmental needs as well as ethical responsibilities, (as expressed in the Magna Charta Universitatum).

B. The ability to present work to specialist and non-specialist audiences and to communicate the underpinnings as well as the limitations of the conclusions.

C. The ability to develop new, creative and well-argued perspectives on existing theoretical, methodological and societal debates in the field of geography, planning and/or demography, with a special attention to the field of Islands and Sustainability.

D. The ability to write scientifically.

E. The ability to search for and retrieve information and to document and archive data according to general academic standards.

F. The ability and skills to write a master’s thesis in a largely self-directed or autonomous manner.

G. The ability to formulate the policy implications of scientific research, taking into account the limitations of the information and scientific insight on which practical recommendations are based.

H. The ability to position research designs and research findings in their wider societal context by showing awareness of different ways in which the issues under study are perceived, valued and contested, with special attention to the field of Islands and Sustainability.

General work orientation

A. The analytical and research skills required for a PhD programme after graduation, or to function at a professional level in research and policy departments of governmental/non-governmental organizations and enterprises.

B. A general work orientation and ability to be a productive and respected member of a research team by contributing to collective efforts, time management and participating in a network in the research domain of spatial sciences.