Learning for Sustainability: CHARM-EU's Capstone Insights

Become part of the capstone, open call to external stakehodlers, submit your proposals before March 14 2024.
Wed, 02/14/2024 - 09:57

In the winter 2023 edition of the EAIE journal Forum, an article examined the capstone phase within CHARM-EU's 'Global Challenges for Sustainability' Master's program. This summary distills the key lessons learned.

CHARM-EU hosts the first ever joint degree Master’s program as part of the European Universities Initiative in which over 430 universities collaborate in alliances across Europe. What is the value of CHARM-EU’s unique approach to education that crosses boundaries between countries, disciplines and professional domains? What are the challenges and elements for success? This article zooms in on the last phase of the Master’s program, the capstone phase, which emphasizes collaborative problem-solving in real sustainability challenges.  


Collaborative Solutions

Why we encourage community stakeholders of working with students from CHARM-EU? Since being part of the capstone phase means for stakeholders to start a collaboration opportunity by participating in innovative projects, having access to academic resources and expertise, and enhancing its own visibility.

Over two academic years, 26 interdisciplinary student teams across five universities engaged in impactful research during the capstone phase. The topics were submitted by societal stakeholders who could use students’ analyses and proposed solutions for ‘their’ sustainability challenges. During the capstone phase, academic supervisors, guest lecturers, and external stakeholders facilitated hybrid working sessions, fostering a dynamic and inclusive educational environment. Capstone projects partnered with NGOs, government agencies, research institutions, and UN agencies across Europe and Africa, showcasing the program's global reach. Examples include a Utrecht project connecting citizens to nature through a smartphone app, collaboration with the UN in Senegal to combat desertification, and a unique ecolabel challenge in Spain.

Opportunities and Challenges

Students valued the inter-institutional nature of the capstone for building collaboration and communication skills. However, challenges included assessments and alignment across the five universities, and coordinating fieldwork across seven countries in Europe and Africa.

The capstone journey provided valuable insights. The collaborative design process, while time-consuming, proved crucial, emphasizing the importance of student and stakeholder involvement. Continuous communication, clear and flexible learning outcomes, and professional development for teachers were identified as key elements for success.

Shaping the Future of Higher Education

In conclusion, CHARM-EU's capstone phase offers a glimpse into the future of higher education. By combining collaboration, innovative education, internationalization, and transdisciplinary thinking, this approach not only sets the stage for educating the next generation of sustainability leaders, but can also help solve societal challenges through education and research. As European Universities alliances evolve, the iterative process of educational innovation will play a crucial role in reshaping higher education.

The article in the EAIE member magazine is written by Marjanneke Vijge, Silvia Gallagher, Jake Byrne Unnikrishnan Britjita Madhavan and Julia Tscherisch. A full download of the magazine is available for EAIE members.


Read more about the capstone phase


Submitting a challenge

For more information and for submitting a challenge for the Capstone cohort 3 (September 2024), see https://masterchallenge.me/challenge-spaces/cf1425b2-9708-4753-bc87-44f813b24394

Deadline is the 17th March.