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Bridging the gap between Nature and Society

What is LUMES?

LUMES is a 2-year international M.Sc. programme focusing on the important sustainability challenges facing humankind. Each year approximately 40 students are accepted to the programme. LUMES is open for students from all over the world and will lead to the Swedish equivalent of a Master's degree (i.e. Magisterexamen). LUMES has a 90 % graduation rate.

The objective of LUMES is to prepare students with the knowledge and competencies to actively contribute to long-term ecological and socio-economic sustainability. The programme builds on the previous knowledge, skills, and experiences students possess with the intention of producing graduates with capacities to create change, from local to global levels. LUMES is not a program that trains competent technicians in different approaches or tools; instead, the ambition is to foster what can be called knowledge brokers, who are equipped with interdisciplinary and cross-cultural competencies in the field of sustainability.

The programme’s unique international, interdisciplinary setting provides a forum for students to work together on a broad array of environment- and sustainability-focused topics, where students acquire invaluable insights into other cultural and disciplinary perspectives. This is carried out by bringing together insights from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, disciplines in both natural and social sciences, as well as by creating opportunities for students to engage in particular cases of unsustainable practices.  Through such “real world learning opportunities”, students strengthen their confidence and abilities to facilitate change.

The programme uses critical and system thinking approaches, rather than focusing expertise in particular methods or tools. Attention is also placed on students’ understanding of both natural and social dynamics of complex sustainability challenges, the theoretical underpinnings of how we perceive the challenges, and a fundamental understanding of the multitude of tools and approaches available when attempting to assess and solve them.

To keep the program at the forefront of sustainability education, and to better operationalize the aforementioned ambitions, a redeveloped program was launched autumn 2013 with updated objectives and curriculum structure. It maintains its international and interdisciplinary profile, and furthermore be based on five key developmental competencies within sustainability education.

History of the LUMES Program:

LUMES, launched in 1997, was one of the first interdisciplinary programs of its kind in Sweden and, since 2005, LUMES has expanded from a three-term master program into a full two-year master program based at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), and located under the Faculty of the Social Sciences. Since its inception, LUMES has educated around 500 graduates from nearly 100 countries (See LUMES Alumni »

Initially, LUMES was an environmental program rooted in systems analysis and government studies, with a strong focus on policy mechanisms such as environmental legislation and taxes. Over time, LUMES has evolved into a program with an extended and comprehensive curriculum covering diverse aspects of the broad sustainability debate. This extension has enabled students to gain a synoptic understanding of global sustainability challenges at a variety of scales and levels. LUMES students also gain an improved understanding of the social theories within which the debates on sustainability challenges and environmental problems are embedded, which also serve as a basis for the problem-solving efforts relating to these challenges.

At LUCSUS, we believe that the wider assortment of theoretical frames and methodological tools and approaches will facilitate the understanding of long-term societal transformations, an objective that lies at the core of sustainability science.

LUMES emphasizes knowledge integration:                                                      

The ability of students to critically and systematically integrate knowledge and manage complexity is ensured throughout the courses in the LUMES Program. The sustainability issues, on which program curriculum concentrates, are often characterized by high levels of uncertainty. For students to both understand and provide solutions for how to address sustainability problems requires integrating knowledge from a number of fields or disciplines in both the natural and social sciences. This includes a basic student comprehension of, for example, the physical and biological processes of the problem areas, an understanding of the social theories and debates in which the problems are framed, skills in approaches for analysing and dealing with the complexity of the problems, and the knowledge of a broader “toolbox” of measures for how to best govern problems.

For students to develop these competences, each course is fundamentally different, with bases in fields and disciplines such as the natural sciences, social theory, economics, urban planning, and rural livelihoods. This diversity allows students to examine natural and human systems from differing perspectives, creating a more comprehensive problem understanding, and fostering confidence among students to address the problems from a variety of standpoints. Numerous times throughout coursework, students have the opportunity to develop competencies and insights to complex sustainability challenges.

Program curriculum doesn’t stop with a student’s ability to integrate different types of (academic) knowledge within the field; it also strongly emphasizes development of the skills and abilities to use the knowledge gained in the program to target specific groups and contribute to change outside of academia.

LUMES strives to make international and national connections:                    

Being an international program, with participants from over 100 countries, LUMES is a cultural melting pot where students for three terms of coursework and one term for writing a Master thesis are exposed to different worldviews, perspectives, and personalities. The setting provides a unique milieu for students to broaden perspectives and outlooks while developing their interpersonal competencies, a strong skills development priority (e.g., writing, reading, presentation).

While the graduate program is international in style, there are numerous links to a variety of different facets of Swedish society through diverse learning activities that provide students, throughout the entire program, opportunities and competencies to design and create written work, as well as present/defend the work.

Prior to entering the program, students submit a pre-program course assignment on a particular sustainability challenge in Sweden. The assignment provides the opportunity for them to develop a basic understanding of a challenge in the country while gaining a fundamental understanding of the geo-bio-physical conditions and the social institutions related to the challenge areas. Students and teachers discuss the assignment in small groups during the first course. In the initial course, students also partake in a 3-day retreat to Northwest Skåne (Breanäs) where they are provided on location environmental, historical and socio-cultural presentations of the region. This knowledge is augmented in the initial course when students, in smaller groups, design and carry out research on one of four topic areas (i.e., biodiversity, water, forests and soil) linked to Breanäs. Projects are further developed in subsequent weeks and presented to the other groups at the end of the course.

Students have the ability to augment their knowledge of Sweden throughout the 3rd term. It is during the term that they experience real world challenges and Swedish experiences through a variety of field visits, expert presentations and academic lectures in four of the elective courses. During these outings, students have the opportunities to directly engage with stakeholders such as farmers, urban planners, government officials, lobbyists, industry representatives, etc. In many cases, final student course papers examine a particular challenge, or transition potential in the region, e.g., farm-scale biogas, regional sustainable tourism, ecological production systems where dialog and research are undertaken in collaboration with regional stakeholders (e.g, Sydvatten, .

The LUMES program is situated within the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies, LUCSUS ( Over the past decade, LUCSUS has become a leader in developing the field of sustainability science in the realms of both research and education. Staff members have also been active in a number of educational development events/workshops in the field, including places such as Tempe, Arizona and San Diego, California. Sustainability Science education is furthermore augmented through LUCSUS’s active role as a Right Livelihood College (, and as a host of the International Project Office of the Earth System Governance Project ( Educational development work will continue in 2013 where the Director of Studies will be a part of an advisory committee for other programs in the field developing around the globe.



LUMES Students and Alumni about the LUMES Programme


“LUMES is an excellent milieu to understand social and environmental problems from different perspectives and to share a variety of strategies on how to address these challenges. In addition to experiencing an incredible learning environment for two years, I enhanced my personal development and understanding of different cultures through daily interaction with fellow classmates. We have continued our friendships even today; it feels wonderful to have such great friends all over the world.”

Maryam Nastar, LUMES Graduate 2008

“LUMES has been a unique life-experience on the academic as well as personal level. By studying LUMES I feel enabled to understand and contribute to the solution of complex sustainability challenges. LUMES is a platform of intercultural and interdisciplinary exchange. This setting allows to learn and study together with extraordinary people from diverse backgrounds and to professionally and personally grow together. Especially, capacities such understanding complex problems, group work skills and passion for sustainability will be very useful in my future life.”

Ralf Bilke, LUMES Graduate 2012

“LUMES for me is so much more than a masters program, it's an experience! The practical knowledge provided by the excellent faculty and engaging course work coupled with the day to day interactions with classmates and friends from around the world makes the LUMES program one of a kind. The environmental and sustainability challenges addressed through this program are very real and sometimes seem insurmountable, but the knowledge and tools gained through LUMES are exactly what students need to equip themselves with the power to provide long-lasting change through thoughtful analysis and meaningful action. When I look at my classmates, past and present, I see the future of sustainability and know there is hope for the planet and future generations; I am proud to be a LUMESian!”

Chad Stephen Boda, LUMES Graduate 2012



Visiting Address:

Josephson, Biskopsgatan 5, LUND

Postal Address: 

Box 170, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden




+46(0)46 222 04 70

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