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Interdisciplinary Community Service Learning

Enrich your Master’s learning experience with an inspiring, hands-on iCSL module. In iCSL, you complement your academic knowledge with real-world insights by collaborating with societal organisations and communities.

✓ Get more out of your Master programme and participate in real-world experiences with local communities and external partners

✓ Cross the boundaries of your discipline and the walls of the university

✓ Be better prepared for your career after graduation

✓ Make societal impact before you even graduate

Q&A sessions

Do you want to know more about iCSL? Sign-up for one of the online Q&A sessions

Sign-up now!

Societally relevant topics such as sustainability, digitalization, globalization, and inequality are so multi-facetted and concern many different parties that they can’t be addressed effectively from a single perspective. The Interdisciplinary Community Service Learning (iCSL) module therefore welcomes master students from any disciplinary background to engage in inter- and transdisciplinary knowledge co-creation, and experience real-life research. You are challenged to step out of your bubble and collaborate across and beyond the campus: you’re part of a cross-disciplinary student team, but also work together closely with communities, companies, organizations, and governments. 

The iCSL module consists of two courses. The iCSL module consists of two courses. The first course (iCSL1) focuses on the definition of societal challenges together with community members and partners. In the second course (iCSL2) you address those challenges through a collaborative research project. Both courses can be followed as an elective (if the structure and exam committee of your own program allow for that) or as an extracurricular activity besides the mandatory components of your program. In both cases, credits are awarded upon completion of the courses. You can enroll in both courses, or in either one of the two.

This year the iCSL1 course focuses on two Sustainable Development Goals:
• SGD 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
• SGD 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Experiences with iCSL

In this video, the course coordinator and students that participated in iCSL1 in 2021 share their experiences with the course

More about iCSL

  • About the iCSL1 Course (Period 2, September-October)

    The iCSL1 course (AM_1254) centers around the definition of challenges that are current in society and would benefit from scientific research. To do so, you engage in dialogue with the residents and organizations of the city. The event at which this dialogue takes place, is the climax of the course. The six weeks leading up to the event are used to prepare for this moment.  More practically, in preparation of the event you will go into the field and reach out to, and interview various actors to gauge their opinions. You learn – among others – about multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity, complex systems and persistent problems, and participatory approaches.

    Weekly face-to-face meetings are scheduled in the evening hours to prevent interference with other courses. 3 ECTS are awarded upon completion. More information about this course can be found in the study guide.

  • About the iCSL2 Course (Period 4-6, February-June)

    The iCSL2 course (AM_1253) is about addressing large societal challenges. As an interdisciplinary team, you research one of the challenges defined in the iCSL1 course. Each team member devotes their own thesis, research project or internship to a sub-question of this challenge. In parallel to your thesis, you follow the iCSL2 course, in which you integrate the insights from the different individual projects. As such, the second iCSL course adds extra inter- and transdisciplinarity to your research project. The course ends in a large meeting (similar to a conference) at which you present your findings back to a scientific as well as societal audience. One of the key questions during this event is: what’s next?

    Weekly face-to-face meetings are scheduled to coach students in the collaborative process. 6 ECTS are awarded upon completion. More information about the course can be found in the study guide.

    Participating in the iCSL1 course is not a requirement.

  • Thematic focus

    In the academic year 2022-2023, students will identify and address challenges experienced by local communities and organisations in relation to the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

    SDG 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, particularly targets "7.1. ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services" and "7.2 increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix"

    SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, particularly targets "11.2.  provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all", "11.3 enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management" and "11.7 provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces for all"

  • Online Q&A sessions

    You can also sign-up for an online Q&A session, which will take place on the following moments:

    * Monday 12 September 13:00 (CEST)   
    * Thursday 29 September  17:15 (CEST)
    * Tuesday 04 October 15.30  (CEST)
    * Monday 10 October 13.00  (CEST)
    * Wednesday 12 October 17:15 (CEST)
    * Tuesday 25 October 13:00 (CEST)   
    * Thursday 27 October 17:15 (CEST)   

  • Partners

    In order to identify the current issues that are urgent in the real world, the iCSL program highly depends on collaborations at and beyond the VU Amsterdam. Among others, the program is shaped together with the city district Amsterdam Nieuw-West, with the VU Green Office , Green Business Club Zuidas, Gemeente Amsterdam, VoorUit,  Hogeschool van Amsterdam, .Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, and Food Council Metropoolregio Amsterdam.

  • Admission

    So, have you gotten interested in the iCSL module? You can enroll for the courses on VUweb, where you can find them through their course codes (iCSL1: AM_1254; iCSL2: AM_1253). Any master student from any program is eligible for the iCSL courses. If your own programme’s curriculum and exam board allow, you can take up the iCSL courses in your study plan as electives. Otherwise you can take the iCSL courses extracurricularly. In either case you receive credits upon the successful completion of the courses and the courses can be added to your master diploma. We highly recommend that you contact your own programme’s coordinator or study advisor to discuss what is possible within your programme and what administrative steps need to be taken.

    Students from other universities can also participate in iCSL. They should contact the iCSL coordinator Eduardo Muniz Pereira Urias considering enrollment.


Contact the iCSL Coordinator