Lessons learned from the Sustainability Science Consortium shared lecture series (adapting according to student needs)


The Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S) was established in August 2005 in order to create visions leading to global sustainability and a super-transdisciplinary academic area called “Sustainability Science”. The program ended in 2010, and the Sustainability Science Consortium (SSC) was established as the successor organization in September 2010. The SSC is composed of 5 major Japanese universities: The University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Osaka University, Hokkaido University ad Ibaragi University and Hokkaido University. The SSC aims to integrate many diverse academic areas related to sustainability in order to promote sustainability programs that educate sustainability specialists capable of undertaking practical work in different international arenas. (Taken from Todai HP Dec 04, 2013)

SSC Structure

Although the SSC is a University of Tokyo initiative headquartered in Tokyo, one of the flagship SSC activities - “Frontiers of Sustainability Science” - is jointly offered by SSC affiliate universities (Hokkaido University (CENSUS), Ibaragi University, University of Tokyo, Osaka University (CEIDS) and Kyoto University.
In addition to the lecture series, other activities include an annual planning (physical) meeting and regular videoconferencing (virtual) meetings to plan strategy and content

Aims and Objectives

Aims to provide students with the opportunity to get up to date knowledge of prominent sustainability related topics
Each year a different theme is presented and leading researchers from each of the SSC partner universities provide relevant lectures.

Once a theme is decided upon the 5 participating universities are each asked to nominate several potential lecturers capable of providing suitable content.

SSC strives to integrate diverse academic areas related to sustainability, and promotes sustainability education programs in the participating universities which educate sustainability specialists who can work practically in different international arenas. Each sustainability education program has a holistic and structuralized understanding of various sustainability issues as a core component, and this core component is defined as the Joint Education Program of SSC and a certificate is awarded by SSC to those who have completed the program.

SSC Methodology

Organising shared lecture activities across multiple locations requires careful logistical planning.
Typically representatives from each SSC partner gather for a planning meeting. The location of these meetings rotates around each SSC member campus.
At this meeting, The first step is to identify and confirm dates that each participant campus is happy with.
The second step is to agree on a topic/theme for the lecture series.
Possible candidate lecturers are also mooted
This face-to-face meeting is followed up by periodic videoconferences to finalise logistical concerns details
The third step is to ensure that each campuses videoconferencing equipment is compatible with the rest.
During the brief history of the SSC several different formats have been experimented with.
Presently, it is conducted over 3 consecutive days during a long weekend in July (13-15). Other formats have been experimented with: 3 consecutive Saturdays (years??)

Typically each SSC shared lecture series includes 10 lecture sessions (introduction, 8 lectures, wrap-up sessions) as well as several discussion sessions (both intro- and inter-university) and group work tasks. Finally, groups from each campus make short presentations summarising the findings of their group work.
Presently, the

Past achievements

Table summarising SSC lecture series history

Themes offered:
2013 (Climate Change)

SSC course has been running for 6-7 (?) years.
It is presently held during a long weekend in July

This paper

This paper looks at the results of an online survey conducted at the conclusion of the 2013 SSC course. We examine the students responses to a variety of questions related to the 2013 SSC offering (see Appendix).
Our prime objective is to try to establish whether, the SSC course is ‘fulfilling its promises’ to students.
In the post-course survey we asked students about:

By analysing the responses to the survey, we hope to ascertain whether we are getting the most out of this unique educational environment / opportunity?

In the spirit of “kaizen” (continual refinement) we hope to glean new ideas and ways to improve the SSC “Frontiers of Sustainability Science” course.


CENSUS - Center for Sustainability Science
IR3S - Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science
University of Tokyo
Kyoto University
Ibaragi University
Survey Monkey



Classroom activities
Online activities
Collaborative writing component
Online component - wiki?
“Forewarned is forearmed” - can we provide lecture abstracts, suggested reading, discussion topics …etc. in advance?
Preparing before lecture series could allow for a better use of the 3-day SSC period