CEMUS Diaries w47 – Master program in Sustainable Development

CEMUS Diaries - week 47 #1






Patrik Rönnbäck

Professor in Sustainable development with focus on Natural Resources

Programme head Master in Sustainable development, Uppsala University



If you follow the CEMUS diaries, then you are obviously interested in sustainable development (SD). But how do we assess the general interest and commitment to SD among people? What is the momentum of SD and how does future leaders, i.e., young people position themselves? From the perspective as program head for the master in Sustainable Development (MSD), it is evident that the interest in and momentum for SD is increasing. The program enrols 60 students per year and in 2017 around 1200 students applied to the program, making MSD one of the most popular master programs in Sweden. The application rates have increased by more than 30% annually the last couples of years, illustrating the momentum for SD in terms of the interest from future leaders.


Sustainable development has also gained an increased interest from society at large on a variety of scales and by a multitude of actors. This is generally positive, but when a concept becomes too mainstreamed it runs the risk of being diluted to a point where almost anything can be framed as SD. This mainstreaming may also result in the inability (intentionally or unintentionally) to focus on the most prioritized and acute SD issues, as these are often the most complex issues. It is thus vital to keep pushing the envelope and lead the discussion around current and future priorities in terms of SD. The concepts of weak and strong sustainability also need to be addressed in this context, i.e., substitutability and complementarity of capitals and SD dimensions.


In my role as program head, I am grateful to CEMUS being a central node in the MSD program. CEMUS is responsible for three courses in the program, in which they contribute with interdisciplinary, innovative and thought-provoking perspectives on SD. CEMUS also offers a warm and inviting “home” for our students throughout (and after) their studies, and this is one of the main assets of the program.




This is a part of the 25th Anniversary blog series “CEMUS Diaries: Stories from past, present and future”, where we invite present and former staff, students, work group members, associates, and other CEMUS friends to reflect on their time at CEMUS and shed critical light into the future. Read the other CEMUS Diaries entries here.


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