Going to college with sustainability in mind – but where?

Today I received an interesting new years message from Rolf Jucker from the CoDes project:

Dear All

I hope you have had a very good start to 2012 and wish you all the very best for it!

I have a question regarding tertiary education for my daughter. She is currently finishing her IB at the Mahindra United World College of India and she is looking around for suitable colleges to maybe go to after a gap year.

We have discussed it at length over Christmas and we find it very, very difficult to suggest anything suitable.

She has had a very special educational experience at Mahindra College and she doesn’t really want to study at a conventional university (be it as prestigious as it might be) where we have all the known problems David Orr has so succinctly spelled out years ago: i.e. highly intelligent lecturers and students doing high status degrees, but with scant respect for sustainability, for the consequences of the careers they are aspiring to, etc.

So she is looking for a college where students and staff are committed to actually practising sustainability, not just in the studies, but also in the way that they live together, act, etc. (be it through regular work at an attached farm or in the community, through the way they prepare and cook food, the way they interact with each other and staff, they way the campus is run and kept, etc. etc.).

Her interests lie in Environmental Systems Studies, Biology, and languages (particularly Spanish) and she is wondering whether first a liberal arts degree might be a good idea.

My question now is (since there is no way to find stuff like that over the internet: either you personally know about it and can vouch for it, or it’s impossible to assess):

Do you know of any colleges, degree schemes etc. which might fit this bill? They can be in the US, the UK, mainland Europe, India, Australia, wherever.

I can’t really think of any examples other than maybe Schumacher College (but that is only MA /MSc level, not BA, or is it?) or Hartland Small School (but that’s not exactly tertiary …).

I would be very, very grateful indeed for any suggestions.

With many thanks in advance and best wishes Rolf


Here’s what my immediate response was:

Thanks Rolf!

What a wonderful message/question. Not an easy one… Some come to mind: The Peace University or U of the Peace in Costa Rica, Evergreen College, Prescott College en Middelbury College in the US, but let me think a little more.

I would like to use your message on my blog… To see how people from across the world respond to this question. With two children (18, 15) myself I am also interested in finding out.

Would that be alright?

Wageningen is nice, small, very international, sustainability-oriented, etc. but is still not what you two seem to be looking for.

All the best,



If you have any ideas – then please let me/us know!

8 thoughts on “Going to college with sustainability in mind – but where?

  1. I am the Director of Admissions at Prescott College. I encourage your daughter to conisder Prescott College. We are founded upon liberal arts, the environment, and social justice. Sustainability is a topic in every class. Our strongest area of study is enviornmental studies and our model of education is experiential meaning theory plus action out in the world. It’s transformational and very meaningful. Take a look at our college video “Life is a River” on the bottom of our home page at http://www.prescott.edu and then connect with me at admissions@prescott.edu. I’d love to continue the conversation.

  2. She should take a look at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) at Lund University in Sweden (where I work). We run two international Masters Programs that might be of interest. See http://www.iiiee.lu.se/ for more information. Kind regards, Kes McCormick

  3. Thanks Kes,
    I have worked with IIIEE about 10 years ago when I was chairing Caretakers of the Environment International and we co-organized an international youth conference in Lund (GYEC) which led to the Young Masters programm (with Birgitta Norden, Malin Malm, Don Huizing and others). I agree these a good degree programmes and Lund is a great place but still I am not sure whether the university as a whole breathes and lives sustainability in the way Rolf and his daughter seem to be looking for. Or do you think so?
    Cheers, Arjen

  4. I don’t know whether she would be interested in coming to the United States but the University of California at Davis just started this new degree program in agricultural sustainability. While the living arrangements are not associated with the degree program, the students here do have some really interesting living options which allow them to live sustainably in cooperatives. http://admissions.ucdavis.edu/majors/major_view.cfm?major=ASAF

  5. Hi,
    One possibility could be to study at the Centre for Human Ecology (CHE), Glasgow. When I studied at University of Edinburgh we had several great guest lecturers from CHE.

    See: http://www.che.ac.uk/


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