Master in Innovation, Human Development, and Sustainability


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The Master's degree in Innovation, Human Development and Sustainability (MSc IHDS) stems from a partnership between the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and organizations from International Geneva in the framework of the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This highly multidisciplinary Master's degree aims to train students to analyze problems and identify innovative solutions in terms of the governance of sustainability. The Master's degree comprises a high proportion of hands on teaching courses (project workshops), but also fundamental courses on sustainable development in all its dimensions (social, economic, and environmental).

This Master's program was created in 2017 in partnership with Tsinghua University (THU, Beijing), China’s top university. This program is part of a broader collaboration on the SDGs, including summer schools, executive training and an exchange program, called the Geneva-Tsinghua Initiative (GTI). This program is presently getting wider, including partner universities around the world which have strong competencies on sustainable development or more specifically SDGs.





Compared to other Master programs dealing with the SDGs, the IHDS program focuses on defining and developing concrete solutions for the SDGs through hands-on, team-based and project-driven activities, in parallel with courses on the fundamentals of sustainable development in all its dimensions - human, environmental and institutional. The teachers are experts from University of Geneva and a range of Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Geneva (the city with the most international organizations in the world). The 6 months or one-year stay abroad is a good opportunity to tackle the intercultural aspects of sustainability; courses proposed in UNIGE prepare students on this topic.





This Master program is highly interdisciplinary and welcomes strongly motivated candidates from a broad range of backgrounds, including bachelor degrees in social and political sciences, economics, geography and environmental sciences as well as information technology, engineering and applied sciences.

Student cohorts will be balanced between all the regions around the world, to ensure a highly multicultural experience: The 2018 cohort includes students coming from Malaysia, Germany, Bengladesh, USA, Canada, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana, etc. The most important factor for enrolling is motivation and evidence of previous experiences in the field.




Career opportunities

Candidates will gain both theoretical understanding and practical field experience that will prepare for employment related to innovation for sustainable development. This includes everything from the assessing the impact of innovation on development issues, to fostering social entrepreneurship for human development, to guiding innovative policy-making for sustainability in large institutions. Innovation skills – combined with a practical knowledge of how SDGs are being implemented worldwide - are increasingly strategic for both public and private sector institutions as well as in the UN, other IGOs and NGOs. Since a growing number of private companies, organisations and (national/regional/municipal) administrations are promoting the SDGs in what they do these days, job opportunities are growing fast.




Teaching concept 

During the year of coursework in Geneva, students will learn about the international organizations and their strategic activities for the SDGs. Scholars working in the UN, global NGOs and State or local administrations are strongly involved in the program. Hands-on and team-based interdisciplinary projects throughout the teaching program involve mentorship from experts in Geneva’s international organizations. This master proposes diverse and innovative forms of teaching: personal work, group work, flipped classrooms, challenged-based learning, hackathons, practical workshops, fieldwork, etc.


Two tracks

Students can choose between two tracks, a Dual Degree (with Tsinghua University) or a Single Degree:


Dual Degree track: This track combines the IHDS interdisciplinary M.Sc. program at the Geneva School of Social Sciences with a Master of Public Administration (called MPP-SDG) program at THU’s School of Public Policy and Management. Students enrol in both universities and spend one year in each university. In addition, students must complete a master thesis with THU, and an internship or group work with UNIGE, usually involving an international organization or NGO in Geneva. Students obtain two degrees after a minimum of two and a half years of study. Students start the Dual Degree at the University where they first register.




Single Degree track: Students will get only one degree from University of Geneva (Master of Science Innovation, Human Development and Sustainability). They will spend 1 year in Geneva and 1 semester in a partner university. Since 2017, the partner for the exchange semester has been Tsinghua University. Since 2018, this has included both the main Beijing campus and graduate Shenzhen campus. Starting in 2019, other universities in Europe, Africa and Latin America will become partners for the exchange semester. The master thesis or the internship thesis will be supervised by a UNIGE professor, but can be based on an internship or fieldwork elsewhere.





Three specializations

Three specialization modules are proposed (only one can be chosen)

  • Sustainable Human Development
  • Standards, Governance and Sustainability
  • Futures of cities and regions



Duration: from 4 semesters (Single Degree track) or 5 semesters (Dual Degree track) to 6 semesters

Core courses

  • Sustainable Development and Political Agendas (compulsory)
  • Culture and Education for Sustainability (elective)
  • Science, Expertise and Sustainable Development (elective)
  • Anthropology of Innovation: comparative perspective (China-Europe) (elective),
  • Workshop 1: Measuring and Predicting Sustainable Development (compulsory)



1 workshop per module:

  • Practice of Sustainable Human Development
  • Standard-Setting for Sustainable Development
  • Urban Futures

Specialization courses:

  • Human Development: Human Development, Concepts and Measures (compulsory), Sustainable consumption (elective), Environmental economics and climate change (elective), Development: Theories, policies and practices (elective), Theories and issues of Global Justice (elective),
  • Standardization: Voluntary, Consensus-based Standards (compulsory), Corporate Citizenship (elective), Governance of global supply chains (elective)
  • Future of cities and regions: Public Policies and Social Justice in the City (compulsory), Cities in transition (elective), Sustainable consumption (elective)

All detailed descriptions of the UNIGE courses are available in the course catalogue (Search by Faculty > Faculté des sciences de la société > Master in Innovation, Human Development and Sustainability (2018) in the drop-down menu)


Master thesis or Internship thesis

Personal work (only for Dual Master students)

2nd year in Tsinghua University:

Selection of courses for the Sustainable Human Development specialization

  • Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development Practice
  • Frontier on Public Policy


Selection of courses for the Standards, Governance and Sustainability specialization

  • Governance and Development
  • Politics and Government in China
  • China's National Security Strategy: Policies and Practices
  • Science & Art of Leadership


Selection of courses for the Futures of cities and regions specialization

  • Urbanization and Social Development
  • Technology/Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Economic Development and Policy in China


Students are submitted to the rules and regulations of the Geneva School of Social Sciences (document in French)


Tuition fees and scholarship

Single Degree Track: Tuition fees at UNIGE are 500 Swiss francs per semester, except for the semester spent abroad (65 Swiss francs)

Dual Degree Track: At University of Geneva, tuition fees are 500 Swiss francs per semester, except semesters spent abroad (65 Swiss francs per semester). At Tsinghua University, tuition fees are 120’000 RMB, plus 800 RMB (Administrative fees).

Students admitted to the Dual Master can apply to competitive GTI scholarship, covering partially the tuition fees at both universities and cost of living in Beijing and Geneva. Note that the amount of the previous scholarship was 12'000 Swiss Francs. This amount is not guaranteed for the next years.


How to apply 

Applications will be open on 1 January

Deadline for application: 28 February

Application procedure and required documents – Single Master

Application procedure and required documents – Dual Master

Directives internes du Master (French version only)



Mathieu Petite, Academic Advisor
T. +41 (0)22 379 80 07


Links to the SDG Dual Degree Track in Tsinghua University (“MPP-SDG”)