Netherlands, Groningen

Society, Environment, Transportation and Space (SETS)

when 22 May 2017 - 17 June 2017
language English
duration 4 weeks
credits 5 ECTS
fee EUR 1590

The aim of the summer course is to develop an understanding of the ways The Netherlands, considered by many as "The Gateway to Europe", deals with economic, environmental and settlement challenges. These challenges are to be placed in the context of increasing levels of globalization, the expected effects of the changing climate on water management and flood protection systems, as well as sustainability concerns related to increasing levels of mobility in general and car usage and ridership in particular – all of which seem to exercise even stronger impacts on the population of one of the most densely populated countries of the world.

At the same time, the course aims to challenge participants to reflect on economic, environmental and planning issues in their home country by means of their understanding of Dutch spatial-economic problems and the Dutch experiences of planning policies implemented to deal with those problems. There are many possible ways to define 'planning' – for example, economic planning (including regional economic development), spatial planning (including housing, settlement planning and transportation planning), and environmental planning (including water management). Also, many possible approaches to the study of planning exist – the approach adopted in this course is problem oriented; planning is thus seen as a problem solving orientation.

It is the goal of the course to study specific examples of Dutch spatial-economic problems and the accompanying problem solving policies in such a way that lessons can be learned and applied to other, analogous situations elsewhere. In the light of the target group for this course, special attention will be devoted to the Dutch history, successes, failures and future challenges of water management (flood protection, water quality), specifically in the light of the expected consequences of rising sea levels and changing annual precipitation distributions for The Netherlands. At present, 23.9% of the Netherlands lies below sea level; these low-lying areas are the home to 60% of the Dutch population, or 10,000,000 people. A second focus will be on intensive land-use planning or 'compact city policy' as a successful instrument to counteract sprawl and enabling very high levels of bicycle participation. An in-depth acquaintance with bicycle infrastructure in the city of Groningen is included in the course program.


"Afsluitdijk" (Enclosure Dam, built 1927-1932)

"Afsluitdijk" (Enclosure Dam, built 1927-1932)



The guiding principle for the course is that the combination of lectures and excursions is a necessary condition to develop an accurate level of understanding – lectures, and reading materials, provide information and knowledge, but this knowledge would remain abstract or 'unplaced' unless it can be related to sites and areas which can be seen and personally experienced. In other words, the combination of 'knowledge' and 'seeing' will be able to produce 'understanding'.

All excursions will be guided and accompanied by the principle teacher for this course, who will also attend the lectures on specific topics delivered by his colleagues (faculty members of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences of the University of Groningen). This will maximize the options to integrate all themes and subtopics of the course with one another.

Course leader

Drs. Paul van Steen

Target group

For undergraduate and graduate students in the field of planning, urban geography, transportation, environmental engineering, architecture and design, and other fields that have a clear link to settlement and livability issues

Course aim

The aim of the summer course is to develop an understanding of the ways The Netherlands, considered by many as "The Gateway to Europe", deals with economic, environmental and settlement challenges. These challenges are to be placed in the context of increasing levels of globalization, the expected effects of the changing climate on water management and flood protection systems, as well as sustainability concerns related to increasing levels of mobility in general and car usage and ridership in particular – all of which seem to exercise even stronger impacts on the population of one of the most densely populated countries of the world.

Credits info

5 ECTS
Course participants are required to conduct a small research project on a topic that will be decided upon with the course teacher. In a team of 3 or 4 persons, each group will make an in-depth investigation of a specific urban, transport, environmental or settlement topic and prepare a powerpoint presentation and a written report of 4,000 words including topic description and positioning (theoretical framework), data collection description and justification; data analysis and findings. per topics may be suggested by participants, or can be chosen from a list of topic options made available at the beginning of the course. The course teacher will assist in finding and selecting sources for the paper.

The last full day of the course will take the form of a workshop, where the participating students will present their group projects (noon session) and take the lead in explanatory site visits (afternoon session)

All elements of this intensive, three week course support one another. Each student is therefore required to attend all lectures and all excursions and site visits. The assessment is based on:
1.class participation 20%
2.group project 60%
3.presentation 20%

Successfull completion of the course will result in a certificate. The course is worth 5 European Credits, which for most USA universities translates into 3 credits.

Fee info

EUR 1590: The fee includes housing, a bicycle, bus excursions and more.

Register for this course
on course website