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Education University of Groningen Summer Schools

Islands as Laboratories for Sustainability

The case of Lesvos

We are currently updating our course overview for 2021-2022. The information below might be updated.

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Islands are special cases for Sustainable Development. Methodologically and scientifically, islands are ideal ‘laboratories’ for sustainable landscape stewardship. Islands are unique in both attractiveness and climate vulnerability, they are relatively isolated and ‘on their own’ compared to mainland areas, yet they are also more dependent and need to be well-connected to other areas more than mainland areas. The summer school is aimed at combining all these different perspectives.

The summer school focuses on the Mediterranean island of Lesvos which is home to what is known as Aristotle’s lagoon and has also been described as the birthplace of the science of biology; an island well-known for its unique biodiversity, a petrified forest and many scenic landscapes reflecting in its UNESCO Geopark status. The island is also the birthplace of great literary figures and has a very rich cultural history. It has also long been a popular tourism (and eco-tourism) destination. More recently it has been at the centre of global media attention as the crossing land of refugees’ flight to safety and key gateway to Europe.

Overall the central question of the summer school is: How to come to sustainable development amidst starkly different island dynamics? Students in this summer school are challenged to blend perspectives towards sustainability: to understand the current situation and to research possible sustainable futures building via a multi-disciplinary approach. Questions that will be considered and addressed include: How can an island like Lesvos (as a case study) move towards an ambitious and successful energy transition? How to combine conservation in core nature areas with development in the surrounding landscapes? How can the challenges and opportunities of the refugee crisis can be met in socially sustainable ways? What are the prospects for sustainable social and economic development?

The summer school is organised in the form of six four-hour sessions with the following themes: 1) Islands as laboratories for landscape stewardship 2) Protected areas and landscapes 3) Sustainable tourism 4) Islands, migration and the refugee crisis 5) Sustainable energy for islands 6) Concluding session: Islands as Laboratories for Sustainability

Practical information

Dates 1 - 17 June 2021
Application deadline: 20 May 2021
Location Online
Level BA/MA/PhD/Postdoc/Practitioners
Fee online

For the online version in June 2021:
€ 50 (regular fee)
€ 150 (attending in full, including coursework, assessment and 3 ECTS carrying certificate)

Academic coordinators

Dimitris Ballas and Frans Sijtsma, Faculty of Spatial Sciences
Raymond Klaassen, Faculty of Science and Engineering
Thanasis Kizos, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean



The main target group will comprise postgraduate students (taught master as well as PhD candidates) and post-doctoral researchers. It may also include excellent undergraduate students (both in terms of academic performance as well as relevant extra-curricular activities and demonstrated interest in the themes covered by the summer school) and external stakeholders (e.g. employees of local authorities, NGOs and any other organisation that is relevant to the summer school themes).

It is expected that the participants have a sufficient command of the English language to actively participate in the discussions and to present their own work in English.

Learning outcomes

After this course you will be able to demonstrate

  • An enhanced 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.
  • An enhanced understanding of the existing political, economic, legal, geopolitical, and social implications of human interactions with the environment on a specific space, islands.
  • An enhanced understanding of socio-spatial, cultural and economic processes that are specific to islandness.
  • An enhanced understanding of economic, social and environmental policy processes and principles of effective management and planning for islands.
  • An enhanced understanding of the way the public and private sectors can handle environmental issues on islands.

Preparation: 38 hours
Lectures: 18 hours
Discussion/interaction with teaching staff and other students: 6 hours
Assignment: 24 hours

Upon successful completion of the programme, the Summer School offers a Certificate of Attendance that mentions the workload of 84 hours (28 hours corresponds to 1 ECTS). Students can apply for recognition of these credits to the relevant authorities in their home institutions, therefore the final decision on awarding credits is at the discretion of their home institutions. We will be happy to provide any necessary information that might be requested in addition to the certificate of attendance.


Course Schedule

The summer school sessions will take place online over six afternoons/evenings between 15:00-19:00 Central European Summer Time on 1st, 3rd, 8th, 10th, 15th and 17th June 2021.

01/06/2021 Introduction (Thanasis Kizos, Frans Sijtsma)

03/06/2021 Protected areas and landscapes (Lecturers: Nikolaos Zouros, Benjamin Hennig, Raymond Klaassen)

08/06/2021 Sustainable Tourism (Lecturers: Ioannis Spilanis, Frans Sijtsma)

10/06/2021 Refugees on Lesvos Island (Lecturers: Electra Petrakou, Dimitris Ballas, Roger Casale, Shareen Elnaschie, Stergios Psifis)

15/06/2021 Sustainable energy for islands (Lecturers: Theocharis Tsoutsos, Heracles Polatidis)

17/06/2021 Concluding section (Frans Sijtsma)

Application procedure

To apply, kindly fill out the online application form. Please note that you will be asked to submit the following documents:

  • CV
  • Letter of motivation

The selection for the summer school will be on a rolling basis. The final deadline for application is 20 May 2021. Generally you will receive info about your submission within a week from submitting the application.

Cancellation policy:

  • Participants who cancel more than 2 weeks before the start of the course are liable to pay 15% of the full course fee, unless the Summer School in question decides otherwise.
  • Participants who cancel within 2 weeks before the start of the course are liable to pay the full course fee, unless the Summer School in question decides otherwise.
  • Participants who withdraw during the course are liable to pay the full course fee, unless the Summer School in question decides otherwise.

In 2021, this summer school will be held online. The next edition will be hosted on Lesvos, Greece.

The summer school is an initiative of the Sustainable Landscapes research group of the University of Groningen and the Research Master Islands and Sustainability program.

The Sustainable Landscapes research group at UG is devoted to developing knowledge for better landscape governance by combining cutting-edge disciplinary and integrative research from widely differing scientific fields.

Islands and Sustainability is a track within the Research Master in Spatial Sciences. It combines thorough training in scientific research with a thematic specialization on Islands and Sustainability.

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Last modified:13 September 2021 2.22 p.m.