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Postgraduate course

Systems thinking and modelling as a framework for sustainability analysis and action

  • ECTS credits10
  • Teaching semesterSpring
  • Course codeSDG312
  • Number of semesters1
  • LanguageEnglish 
  • Resources

Main content

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Teaching semester


Place of Instruction


Objectives and Content

Systems thinking refers to the ability to collectively analyze the inner fabric and dynamics of complex systems across different domains (society, environment, economy, etc.) and across different scales (local to global). Such understanding is a prerequisite for identifying intervention points, anticipating future trajectories and facilitating transition processes. The ability to analyze complex systems includes comprehending, empirically verifying, and articulating their structure, key components, and dynamics using methods and methodologies such as qualitative and quantitative modelling.

This course introduces the theory, tools and techniques for systems thinking and modelling as a way of analyzing sustainability problems and deriving actionable insights to overcome them. It does so by working with organizations outside the University of Bergen (case owners) who furnish students with an applied context and specific sustainability challenges they are currently dealing with (case study). Students will use systems thinking and modelling to address these challenges.

The process of systems thinking and modeling facilitates better understanding of system complexity and how our decisions affect system behaviour through abstractions and simplifications of the real world.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this course the students should have the following competencies defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general learning outcomes:


The student

  • can apply and critically account for systems thinking tools;
  • can use methods for scenario development;
  • can use of multiple criteria decision analysis methods for elicitation and analysis of value preferences;
  • can carry out the system dynamics modelling process from problem definition to policy analysis.


Students can:

  • critically assess various systems thinking and modelling approaches;
  • use different scenario frameworks for describing existing as well as possible future system configurations and outcomes;
  • use multiple criteria decision analysis in the context of sustainable development challenges.

General competence 

This course has a strong focus on communication and collaboration skills. In particular, students should have the following general competences:

  • critical thinking and reflection;
  • solve (authentic) problems in interdisciplinary groups;
  • present work (individually and in teams);
  • comment on work of others and respond to comments on own work.

Required Previous Knowledge

Bachelor¿s degree or similar, with special competence equalling one and a half years of study (80 ECTS) in a field or specialisation relevant for the programme

Recommended Previous Knowledge


Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap


Access to the Course

The course is open to students enrolled in the Master's programme in sustainability at the University of Bergen

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will comprise lectures, games, seminars, project work, problem-based as well as student-led learning. 

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

  • Participation in group work  on selected aspects of case study  
  • Peer evaluation and feedback on group work  
  • Student led lecture (max. 45 minutes on selected topics in systems thinking and modeling)

All activities and assignments must be completed and approved before the student¿s portfolio will be assessed  

Forms of Assessment

Portfolio assessment with portfolio consisting of three products:

1) Project report documenting the process and outcome of project work (weight: 70 %).

2) Presentation of main project findings and implications in the form of a 3-minute video clip, answer to examiners¿ questions (weight: 30 %).

Grading Scale


Assessment Semester


Reading List

Will be available December 1st.

Course Evaluation

The course will be evaluated in accordance with the quality assurance system of the University of Bergen.

Exam information