Vier Studierende sitzen auf Hockern, die mit den 17 Zielen für nachhaltige Entwicklung bedruckt sind.

Service Learning and Sustainable Transformation of Universities

Senatra (Service Learning und nachhaltige Transformation an Hochschulen) is a cooperative project of University of Vechta, Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg, University of Bremen, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the student network netzwerk n. Together we develop and explore sustainability-related service learning seminars. The overall research question is to which extent the use of service learning in higher education can contribute to an overall sustainable transformation of higher education institutions and their regional environment. In our service learning seminars, students carry out projects with and for partner institutions, for example civil society organisations, public institutions or initiatives on campus.

Logo von Senatra mit der Unterzeile Service Learning und nachhaltige Transformation an Hochschulen

What we have achieved so far

Student projects

Our Senatra approach

We understand sustainability in the sense of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The 17 general goals and 169 more detailed ones aim towards ecological, social and economic sustainability, peace and international partnerships. Sustainable development in this comprehensive sense requires the efforts of the whole of society. In this process, higher education institutions bear responsibility in several sectors: research, education of students, transfer of knowledge and technology to society, and the institution's governance.

We understand service learning as courses that are based on the combination of academic learning and development of competences on the one hand and providing a service to society on the other. In the seminar context, groups of students carry out projects with and for partner institutions. The dialogue with their partners and the mutual integration of practical knowledge and academic knowledge are key to service learning.

The whole institution approach takes into account all processes within the higher education institution and their sustainability or non-sustainability. In Senatra, we pursue the transformation of the entire institution, that is, structural changes towards the sustainability of the university itself. In their projects, students cooperate with partners e.g. in administration departments or with sustainability initiatives on campus.

Das sagen Studierende, Lehrende und Praxispartner*innen

Vier Studierende mit Hockern, auf denen die 17 Ziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung aufgedruckt sind. Zwei Studierende werfen sich einen Globus als Ball zu.

About the university's role in the region

"The fact that university now has opportunities to push such projects [for sustainable development] by providing a few brains within the framework of such modules, who then actively go into a project and think along and contribute ideas, gives university a high status."



About the benefits of service learning

"It is very time-consuming to facilitate, but in my experience the learning outcomes are far higher than in classic seminars, [...] because the personal development is strengthened and, of course, because there is added value for society, so that it is a win-win situation for everyone involved".

Prof. Dr. Simone Birkel


Cover image © KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt