When students from different disciplines work together on a topic, it unleashes a certain dynamism, as different perspectives, approaches and terminologies come together. Students learn to consider their own subject in relation to others and to capitalize on academic differences. They acquire skills that are sought after by employers: for example, the ability to connect up different viewpoints, to consider problems from different perspectives, to adopt an open-minded and joined-up way of thinking, and to work in cross-disciplinary teams.
Interdisciplinary research is common at UZH. The University is now keen to promote interdisciplinary teaching, as Gabriele Siegert, Vice President Education and Student Affairs, explains. To this end, a School for Transdisciplinary Studies (STS) was set up at the beginning of the year. It is located at the Office of the Vice President Education and Student Affairs and acts as a hub between the faculties and individual initiatives developing transdisciplinary courses. The STS’s initial portfolio comprises five modules. They are open to students from all faculties and are designed to supplement Bachelor’s and Master’s programs.
Participating students examine the risks and opportunities of the digital transformation from different disciplinary perspectives (Studium Digitale). They work in mixed teams to validate business ideas (Digital Ventures Leadership & Foundation). They reflect on animal use in research from a legal, ethical, medical and scientific perspective (The 3Rs and the ethics of animal research). They engage with various aspects of sustainability in public panel discussions (Sustainability now!). And they learn how to teach complex academic content and familiarize themselves with the didactic principles of various university disciplines (Start! Teaching Assistant Qualification Program @UZH).
With five modules worth between one and three ECTS credits, the range of transdisciplinary courses is still quite limited. “But the future potential is huge,” explains Gabriele Siegert. Considering its broad range of subjects, UZH is ideally placed to expand the existing range of transdisciplinary courses. “The extent to which this happens will depend on the interest and demand from students.”