Postgraduate course

Model-based Analysis and Policy Design

Level of Study


Semester of Instruction


Objectives and Content

This is an introduction to System Dynamics analysis of non-linear, dynamic systems with emphasis on the relationship between system structure and behaviour, and on policy design and implementation. Students learn to build, simulate and test models of social, natural and hybrid systems, to analyze the structural causes of problem behavior and to develop and evaluate policies aimed at addressing such problems. The students gain a deep understanding of the intimate relationship between structure and behaviour in complex, dynamic systems; how structure gives rise to behavior and how the resulting behaviour may feed back to change the relative significance of the structural components of the system. This enables the students to analyze problems and to develop and evaluate policies of their own choice. The students also learn to distil the essence of a modelling experience and to communicate their analysis and design conclusions in the form of a compact executive summary.

Learning Outcomes

Express knowledge and understanding

Students gain extended knowledge about the System Dynamics method with particular emphasis on model based problem identification and analysis as well as hypothesis formulation and analysis in policy design. They also gain knowledge about the intimate relationship that exists between structure and behaviour (dynamics) in non-linear systems and the shifts in causal loop governance that may take place in such systems. They gain knowledge about the significance of a robust strategy development, the associated policy design and the resulting decision making (i.e. management). The students will know of the basic concepts of systems dynamics theory, methods, techniques and tools.


Apply knowledge and understanding

Students will apply their knowledge in a series of comprehensive case studies that will be presented in class. Students are challenged to investigate the turbulent dynamics arising from an underlying, non-linear structure by way of computer based modelling and simulation. Particular emphasis will be placed on their recognition of dynamic patterns of problem behaviour and the corresponding underlying structures, as well as their ability to propose and evaluate policies to address such problems. Students are trained to distil the essence of their insights and present it in the form of compact causal loop diagrams.


Make judgements

Students learn to make judgements about how well a model structure contributes to the explanation of an observed or hypothesised dynamic behaviour.


Students are encouraged to participate actively in class. The students will be trained both in writing and in oral presentations to explain the relationship between structure and dynamic behaviour in non-linear systems.


Develop learning skills

The course is putting the student on the track of becoming a skilled modeller, a problem identifier and a policy designer. It equips the student with the basic skills and tools to progress in the investigation of systems in ever more complex domains and familiarise the student with relevant scientific literature in the field.

Required Previous Knowledge


Recommended Previous Knowledge

GEO-SD302 or other adequate background in modelling

Access to the Course

The course is open to students enrolled in the Erasmus Mundus master program and to graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Bergen if they have taken GEO SD302 or another course that provides an adequate introduction to System Dynamics.

Teaching Methods and Extent of Organized Teaching

The course is comprised of lectures on introductory material and case studies, and of classroom modelling and simulation activities both by lecturer and teaching assistant. Course meetings include 36 lecture hours and 18 hours of lab assistance over a 4-week period (three lectures and one lab per week) from late September until the end of October. The exam is in the week after the end of the lectures.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Weekly case studies

Forms of Assessment

4-hour written exam (100% of grade)

Grading Scale

An ECTS grade is provided to the student at the end of the course according to the A-F scale.

Subject Overlap

GEO-SD203 - 10 ects

Assessment Semester


Course Evaluation

GEO-SD303 will be evaluated at least every third year.


Contact Information

Department of Geography



Exam information

  • Type of assessment: Written exam

    03.11.2017, 09:00
    4 hours
    Withdrawal deadline