Project Objectives and Innovative character

1. Rationale and Background of the project

Islands are a special kind of spatial entities, laden with many symbols with a prominent place in collective imagination. They are material and geophysical spaces but also objects “of the mind”, with heavy layers of myth, metaphor and representation. Islands in the European Union (EU) and around the world are recognized as one of the three types of territories which face particular development challenges (the others are mountain and sparsely populated regions in the EU).

European islands are very diverse, in terms of size, topography, remoteness and economic development with many small or very small islands and some big or very big ones. However, they share the challenges posed by the island condition, and which is itself compounded by smallness of land area and population. Such a condition typically implies fragmented and isolated markets and limited natural resources, less competitive transportation networks, higher prices for goods/services, and fragmented infrastructural provisions: public administration, compulsory education, health care, energy, water supply, waste treatment, among other services, have to be provided to each island separately.

Besides these ‘objective’ and measurable characteristics, the island condition expresses a non-measurable but distinctive “experiential identity”. Islands are spaces which are shaped by but also which shape the experiences of the people who live there, whether these are local inhabitants who have been there all their lives, returning islanders, visiting mainlanders, members of the island diaspora, or retirees from other countries. Finally, within islands there is also a conceived or representational reality arising from their place in myth, folklore, literature, and history as places of escape, allure, paradise and refuge.

Sustainability and sustainable development are notions that are widely used today in areas of research, policies, monitoring and planning. The two notions are used in different contexts. In the European Union (EU), sustainable development aims to achieve economic prosperity, social equity and cohesion and environmental protection and is considered as an over-arching principle in all EU policies. Sustainability can be considered as the state and potential of an area for achieving sustainable development.

Islands, small islands in particular, are particularly well suited for the discussion and implementation of sustainability, since they are natural laboratories with well defined boundaries and easily monitored inputs and outputs. They are at the same time especially vulnerable to exogenous factors, such as climate and environmental change. The short teaching program with a strong group work component will bring together people from different countries and different disciplines and can emphasize such issues from different standpoints, highlighting diverse aspects and strategies for implementing sustainable strategies and practices. Moreover, it is a unique opportunity for island-based institutions to exchange ideas, knowledge and practices with similar, island-based universities, compare strategies and solutions to common problems. This is expected to enhance the European impact of the Intensive Programme.

The proposed IP INSUS “Insularity and Sustainability – context and case studies of different European Islands” is an effort to discuss and contextualize sustainability and insularity from island-based Universities around Europe, members of the Network of Insular Universities «Excellence Network Island Territories» ENIT/RETI. This will bring together researchers and teaching staff from these Universities and will accommodate diffusion of knowledge and practices and will also bring together their curricula in the themes of insularity and sustainability, both central for all Institutions and the network itself.

The area of the field study is Lesvos Island, in Greece that offers a wide range of available activities for field work and group work. The island offers diverse land use systems within Mediterranean ecosystems, tourism development and urban sprawl, rich and fragile marine environments and strong local identities. The proposed issues of group projects are (alphabetically):

Build heritage on islands: issues of preservation

Effective niche manufacturing from small islands.

Energy and sustainability: the challenge of renewable energy on islands

Land biodiversity conservation and management

Planning and management of sustainable and “alternative” tourism.

Sustainable agriculture and food security on islands

Sustainable fishing and conservation of marine resources on islands

Terrestrial Ecology on islands

2. The specific objectives of the IP are:

- to provide education and training on islandness and sustainability to students of diverse scientific and national backgrounds that study in insular Universities;

- to discuss and compare selected examples of sustainable practices on various issues that impact islands around the world;

- to provide stimulating group work in small mixed groups under the close supervision of the teaching staff;

- to allow students to confront their own different academic perspectives on insularity and sustainability

- to form the basis for a closer cooperation between the participating institutions with a goal of developing common postgraduate programmes in the future on island sustainability.

Regarding the existing teaching programmes of the participating institutions, the IP will be supported from and form an integral part of the programs of all participating Institutions.

For the Department of Geography (Greece) it will form part of a special course “Special issues of Geography” that is also used for ERASMUS students in general and those that will successfully pass the final exam, will be awarded 5 ECTS credits for their degree.

For the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria it will form part of a special module “Sustainability Issues and Biodiversity in Islands” in the Postgraduate courses and is also used for ERASMUS students, will be awarded 4 ECTS.

For the department of Physics (University of Corsica), the IP will be validated by ECTS (between 3 and 5, depending on the overall contents and compatibility of lessons) and form part of the “Project” teaching unit.

The University of Malta will also allocate 5 ECTS credits to each student who passes the assessments for the IP.

The IP provides a practical, field experience that combines multidisciplinary perspectives within the common unifying themes of sustainability and insularity. All disciplines involved are seldom taught in an integrated manner in the field, or in a way that brings together expertise and students from across Europe in a common purpose.

This is the reason why this IP is envisioned as the foundation stone of a common Masters’ programme on islandness and sustainability in the future inside the ERASMUS MUNDUS initiative.


1. Regarding the main pedagogical and didactical approaches and concepts that will be used, the essential feature of the IP is that it is a group working and project-oriented experience. Students are introduced with lectures into the context of the themes, insularity and sustainability, successful examples in selected fields are presented to them from sustainable practices on islands and they work in small groups on a specific issue, preparing and presenting a small multidisciplinary project under the supervision of an experienced staff member. Within this framework, field work, groups work, class lectures and independent reading and study will all form part of the pedagogic experience. The course is structured around small-group projects, each tutored by different members of the staff. Students will be introduced to the projects in the first day of the IP and will be provided with a dossier with any required relevant information. During the field course, they will receive training on the design of field work, gathering of field and associated data, and final data analysis. Much emphasis will be placed on discussion within groups but also among all participants in the final presentations.

2. The direct beneficiaries of the IP will be undergraduate students near the end of their programmes, or postgraduate students, selected by each participating Universities on the basis of their academic achievements to date within their degree programmes and taking into consideration their English language ability.

3. The planned ratio of teaching staff to students in the intensive programme will be 1 to 7. This low ratio is the cornerstone of the IP and will enhance  the direct results of the group work. Each of the teaching staff will provide lectures and supervise a small (7 people) mixed international group that will work on a specific topic. Teaching staff will assist the groups with their projects and assess their quality in the end of the IP.

4. For the use of ICT tools, materials will be disseminated electronically before commencement, and students will be encouraged to utilise ICT in their researches both to communicate with fellow students, and their teachers, and to aid in the preparation of their reports. Moreover, ICT will also be used for map making and mapping pressures and other outcomes of the IP. Also, the individual assessment of students will be web based with standard multiple choice tests with questions provided by the teaching staff based on the lectures and the material provided by them.

5. Regarding the assessment of student achievement in the IP and the intended learning outcomes, the individual assessment of each student will be based upon two different types of assessment:

(a) individual assessment of students will be web based with standard multiple choice tests with questions provided by the teaching staff based on the lectures and the material provided by them and will cover 30% of the overall final grade;

(b) group projects (presentation and the final group paper) will also be assessed by the supervisor of each group and will cover: (i) paper 50% of the overall final grade and (ii) presentation 20% of the overall final grade.

6. Academic recognition differs for each partner institution:

The University of the Aegean, will allocate 5 ECTS credits to each student who passes the assessments for the IP.

The University of Malta will also allocate 5 ECTS credits to each student who passes the assessments for the IP.

The University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, will allocate 4 ECTS credits to each student who passes the assessments for the IP.

The University of Corsica, will allocate between 3 and 5 ECTS credits to its students depending on the overall contents and compatibility of the lectures of INSUS IP