New masters programme prepares students for the Biobased Economy

Published on
January 11, 2016

Wageningen UR is developing a new masters programme in biobased sciences. This Master of Science degree will cater to future professionals looking to specialise in the biobased economy. Gerlinde van Vilsteren and Harry Bitter explain the plans.

“The masters degree in biobased sciences will be interesting for a broad group of students, ranging from technologists to economists,” professor Harry Bitter from Wageningen UR explains. “The biobased economy employs people from all fields, from plant scientists to biotechnologists and from economists to logistics experts. Everyone has their own specialisation, but must also have some knowledge of other disciplines to succeed. This way students learn to act in a transdisciplinary setting that brings together all the fields relevant to Wageningen.”

General section and specialisations

The degree is based on the understanding that the transition to a biobased economy is a system change in which technological, economic and social developments mutually reinforce, but also counteract, each other. Future masters students will soon begin introductory classes, which will strengthen their knowledge of other disciplines. This includes a basic economy course for technologists and a basic chemistry course for economists. Next, the course will split into three specialisations, proceeding from the existing bachelors degrees: biomass production, biorefinery & conversion and biobased transition. The last part of the course will bring the specialisations back together.

The importance of a systems-based approach

Gerlinde van Vilsteren is the director of the Centre for Biobased Economy (CBBE), in which eight schools join forces with the private sector to train professionals for the biobased economy. The creation of this masters programme is important for the whole country, Van Vilsteren states: “The Netherlands has everything required to play a leading role in the global biobased economy. In Wageningen UR, we have a leading knowledge institution with an established experience of the biobased economy. We also have a strong agro-food and chemical industry, and a prominent role in logistics. To continue to play a leading role, we need to train good people who understand that the transition to a biobased economy is a systemic change which involves many links. This type of systems-based approach is central to the new programme.”

Broad intake

Van Vilsteren expects a broad intake of students from preparatory degrees. “The course will, of course, be of interest to undergraduate students of Wageningen UR, but also to natural and social science students from other universities, both from home and abroad. I also expect a lot of enthusiasm among graduates of universities of applied sciences. This includes chemical engineers, cultivation experts and business professionals from partner schools in the CBBE.”

Impending start

Wageningen aims to start the new programme in September 2018 at the latest. “Meanwhile, students who are currently in other Wageningen UR masters degrees can start the specialisations,” Bitter explains. “We already offer the specialisation in environmental and biobased technology within the biotechnology masters.”

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