Powering the green economy: How NUS is advancing sustainability education

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In this series, NUS News explores how NUS is accelerating sustainability research and education in response to climate change challenges, and harnessing the knowledge and creativity of our people to pave the way to a greener future for all.

Amid the record-high levels of greenhouse gases, pollution and deforestation, the topic of sustainability has never been more pressing. In tandem with shaping the future of sustainability and contributing to climate action, NUS offers a plethora of sustainability-related postgraduate and executive programmes in both STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and non-STEM fields. These courses are also updated regularly to ensure they remain relevant in our fast-changing world. 

NUS Vice Provost for Masters’ Programmes & Lifelong Education, and Dean of the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (NUS SCALE) Professor Susanna Leong said, “As Singapore, Asia, and the world work towards a more sustainable future, the courses that the University offer can be applied to solving immediate problems, and those of the future.” The diverse learning opportunities include short executive training courses, professional and graduate certificates, as well as credentialled postgraduate programmes, she added. 

NUS offers 11 master’s degrees in various specialised fields of sustainability, from the sciences and engineering to business and climate change, and will introduce two more programmes in August 2024. The University also introduces new specialisations in sustainability for postgraduate programmes as part of its regular curriculum review. With a wide range of offerings, students can deep-dive into topics they are passionate about, with many going on to become thought leaders and experts in their respective fields. 

Here are highlights of some of our sustainability-related Masters programmes. 

MSc in Biodiversity Conservation and Nature-based Climate Solutions 

This programme explores problems and strategies related to conservation, environmental sustainability, and climate change. Due to its geographical location in Southeast Asia, Singapore is in a unique position to explore issues where countries may prioritise economic development over conservation concerns. 

Students can choose from a range of modules such as exploring the impact of biological invasions as well as the integration of spatial and social modelling skills in environmental sustainability, in-demand topics and skillsets which are highly valued.

These are taught by a stellar team of faculty members from the Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) with expertise in environmental sustainability, biodiversity conservation, and freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecology.

“For many of our modules, guest speakers from different environmental backgrounds and organisations are invited to talk about their work,” said Ms Kayla Lindsey, a 25-year-old student in the programme. “They also share what real-life opportunities are available to us as we look for full-time jobs after graduation.” 

MSc in Energy Systems 

With the global shift away from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources, this uniquely multidisciplinary programme by the NUS College of Design and Engineering (CDE) combines engineering and technology to address the gap in the current energy education landscape, which tends to be single-disciplinary in nature. 

Beyond learning about the principles of energy technologies, the impact of policies and market-based mechanisms, as well as cost analysis, students will also acquire skills that prepare them for the global transition to greener sources of energy such as solar energy and hydrogen. 

Energy Systems Modelling and Market Mechanisms, Biomass and Energy, and Management of Technological Innovation are just some of the modules they can choose from. 

Graduates have gone on to pursue careers in energy analysis and operation management, consulting and policy advisory, as well as technology and innovation management in the energy sector. 

MSc in Sustainable and Green Finance 

The first of its kind in Asia, this course incorporates social and environmental considerations into conventional financial models. Through partnerships with industry players, students take their learning beyond the classroom and are prepared for a rapidly-evolving industry

Launched in 2021 by NUS Business School in collaboration with the Sustainable and Green Finance Institute (SGFIN), it was set up with support from the Monetary Authority of Singapore. 

By equipping students with the ability to take ESG considerations into account when making investment decisions, the course opens up a variety of career options to graduates. These range from roles in the corporate or financial sector, as well as government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). 

MSc in Environmental Management 

Following a recent curriculum revamp, this long-running flagship programme is now multidisciplinary as well as interdisciplinary – jointly offered by six NUS faculties and schools, including the science and law faculties. 

Local as well as global in scope, it grooms graduates for key managerial roles in the private and public sectors. Students gain insights in policymaking, data analysis and other fields.

Mr Nihal Jayantha Mallikaratne, 52, an operations manager at a manufacturing firm who is enrolled in this programme part-time, wants to gain “a sound understanding of the complex environmental challenges we face today, and the strategies needed to address them.” He hopes that at the end of the programme, he will possess the knowledge and skills to make a real impact in the field of environment and sustainability.

New Master Programmes in Sustainability 

From August 2024, NUS will offer two new master’s programmes in sustainability. 

Providing a unique curriculum that will be relevant to both domestic and international audiences, the new MSc in Climate Change and Sustainability will cover the science of climate change as well as the policies and actions aimed at mitigating and adapting to its effects. Offered by the Department of Geography, the stackable graduate programme cuts across the biological, physical, social and engineering sciences to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of climate change. 

In the face of increasingly interrelated sustainability issues, data science has become crucial in providing insights to complex economic, environment and social systems. With a growing demand for professionals with robust data science and sustainability knowledge, the MSc in Data Science for Sustainability is designed to equip data scientists with an understanding of sustainability issues. The course is a collaboration between the Department of Statistics and Data Science and the Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions (CNCS), in partnership with DBS.

Short-term Continuing Education and Training (CET) courses

Aside from the undergraduate and master’s degrees, NUS offers short-term courses for professional executives as well as through organisations for their employees. Currently, these CET courses, which provide a broad view of sustainability and climate change issues, fall into four categories – business, policy, engineering, and science.

With more businesses placing greater emphasis on shaping policies and practices in ESG to better manage the risks and opportunities related to sustainable development, the University is seeing a strong interest in the take-up of such courses. There has also been strong interest from government agencies to upskill policy officers and administrators on sustainability.

Social and Sustainable Investing

With a focus on the Asia-Pacific region, this two-day course covers topics such as sustainable investing, the latest developments in corporate and social responsibility, as well as ways to invest in social impact bonds and green bonds.

It is offered by the NUS Business School. Business leaders and investment managers will find it particularly relevant, although the course is open to anyone with an interest in social and environmentally-related investments.

Senior Management Programme: Policy & Leadership for Innovation and Sustainability

Corporate leaders, leaders of non-profit organisations, and senior policy professionals have taken part in this programme run by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Over three weeks, participants study how different institutions, economies and societies operate as complex and adaptive systems – and learn how they can create better policies.

The Senior Management Programme (SMP) includes a week-long study trip to Zurich, Switzerland, which offers first-hand insights into the country’s policies and business practices.

One recent graduate was Mr Tan Tok Seng, Senior Deputy Director of the School Campus Department at the Ministry of Education, who shared that he was impressed by the “thoughtfully curated and professionally conducted” discussions led by experts of the field. The programme also had a “good variety of topics that benefited participants from different agencies and backgrounds”, he added.

Deep Decarbonisation: Principles and Analysis Tools

This course, offered by CDE, looks at the challenges and opportunities posed by the energy transition, as well as the analytical tools used to study the underlying issues and manage trade-offs.

Energy System Transformation, Decision-Making Under Uncertainties and Energy System Modelling and Analysis, are among the topics covered in this 14-hour programme.

One of the participants, Mr Adrian Chan, a production line trainer from Shell Jurong Island, noted that understanding decarbonisation is essential in his line of work.

“As the implementation of decarbonisation initiatives brings forth novel technologies and processes, it becomes imperative for operation technicians to receive appropriate training to proficiently operate and maintain these systems,” he said.

Sustainability 101 Course for Policy Officers

Sustainability 101 is symbolic of a “whole-of-nation” sustainability movement to create a robust green talent pipeline as enshrined in the Singapore Green Plan 2030. Launched in November 2022 by CNCS in collaboration with the National Climate Change Secretariat and NUS SCALE, more than 153 government officers from over 35 agencies have taken this programme which covers topics such as international climate negotiations and domestic environmental policies.

To help them develop well-balanced and science-based policies in their respective fields, participants were exposed to seminars, panels, case studies and discussions led by academics, government officials and industry leaders. 

Keen to find out more about the university’s wide range of sustainability programmes? View the full list here, or email sustainability@nus.edu.sg for more information.

This is the first in a two-part series on NUS’ sustainable education offerings.