Sustainability at the University of Münster
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Sustainability at the University of Münster – Overview

Sustainable development is one of society’s greatest challenges, the mitigation of which the scientific sector plays an essential role. Universities hold a key function in this regard as places of research, instruction and learning, where future generations are given the tools to reflectively take appropriate action. At the same time, institutions of higher education can also be part of the problem. Universities construct campus buildings, consume large amounts of energy and recyclable materials – in short, they consume resources. The University of Münster is aware of its responsibility for the social, environmental and economic impact of these issues. As a result, the University of MÜnster addresses sustainability in each of its central fields of activity – research, teaching, transfer and operation.


To surmount the enormous social challenges of our time, it is crucial that universities develop innovations and expand scientific know-how. Disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research collaborations play a key role in solving global problems, such as mitigating climate change, promoting mobility and energy transformation, and supporting peace and democracy. Consequently, the research activities related to sustainable development can be found in practically every discipline at the University of Münster.

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    Central facilities

    Center of Interdisciplinary Sustainability Research (ZIN)
    The empirical, normative and transformative research conducted at the Center of Interdisciplinary Sustainability Research (ZIN) represents an analytical, evaluative and practical contribution to scientific and public discourse on sustainable development. The interdisciplinary institute bundles sustainability research and teaching activities at the University of Münster. The ZIN also serves as the University’s contact partner for external stakeholders on matters related to sustainability, including state, federal and European policymakers, administrators in Münster and other cities in the region.
    Center of Interdisciplinary Sustainability Research (ZIN)

  • Selected research projects

    Münster Electrochemical Energy Technology (MEET)
    MEET is one of Germany’s leading battery research centres. It combines comprehensive, international and interdisciplinary basic research with real-world application. Its aim is to develop sustainable, high-performance batteries of the future, significantly advance battery cell production in Europe, and thus contribute to a shift to more sustainability in the energy and transportation sector.
    Research projects at MEET

    Virtual Institute for Smart Energy (VISE)
    The Virtual Institute for Smart Energy (VISE) is a research consortium and competence centre devoted to the study of energy-sector digitalisation. In addition to business and research partners in the fields of technology, economics and IT, the institute works closely with civil-sector organisations. VISE is divided into four subprojects, each with a different research focus. By bundling its research activities, findings and expertise, VISE is able to comprehensively study and shape the complex and interdependent digital energy system.
    Virtual Institute for Smart Energy (VISE) [de]

    BIOCIVIS – Participation to ensure the benefits of sustainability and social participation in the bioeconomy
    In interdisciplinary cooperation with political studies scholars and biologists of the University of Münster, the BIOCIVIS project examines which participatory processes can be applied to safeguard the social benefits of bioeconomic technologies while strengthening democratic participation.

    ENGAGE – Participation for a Sustainable Common Good
    In this inter- and transdisciplinary joint project, ENGAGE investigates under what conditions civic participation can contribute to a sustainable common good. To this end, the researchers apply quantitative and qualitative methods to study various forms of involvement and political participation.

    NostaClimate focuses on climate and emission targets, and investigates what non-state actors can do to achieve them. Basically, non-state actors have several mechanisms at their disposal: (1) conduct their own climate protection activities, (2) generate greater acceptance of climate policy and climate protection activities, and (3), monitor compliance of climate protection standards of other actors. The research project studies the possibility of influencing these mechanisms and a diverse array of actors.

    The joint project MikroPlaTas investigates to what extent microplastics exist in inland bodies of water. Project researchers are studying samples taken from reservoirs and dams to determine how microplastics impact various aquatic organisms and the environment. The findings will help them assess the significance of microplastics for the environment and to develop countermeasures. The research project is presented in a video as part of the dossier “Sustainability at the University of Münster”.

    PEGASOS – The Political Economics of a Global Phase-Out of Fossil Fuels
    Phasing out fossil fuel technologies is a prerequisite for meeting the world’s global climate goals. The PEGASOS project investigates what economically efficient and sustainable political options are available to eventually phase out fossil fuels. In addition to climate targets, the project also takes into account other social goals such as safeguarding public health and ensuring competitiveness.
    PEGASOS [de]

    DynaMo – Mobility-Energy Dynamics in Urban Environments
    The junior research group DynaMo engages in inter- and transdisciplinary research in the field of urban mobility and its transformation processes and potentials. The project’s goal is to design sustainable urban mobility systems which are economically efficient, socially acceptable and environmentally friendly.
    DynaMo [de]

Study and teaching

In addition to presenting expertise and the latest scientific findings, teaching students about sustainability requires critical reflection and the ability to recognise and analyse inter- and transdisciplinary relationships. The University of Münster offers numerous degree programmes with courses that highlight sustainable development in their curricula. Every semester, the ZIN provides an overview of such courses from an extensive range of subjects.

There are various projects at the University of Münster which offer educational opportunities to other target groups in the field of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

  • Selected ESD projects

    Form Your Future
    Funded through the UNESCO World Action Program for Education for Sustainable Development, the “Form Your Future” project is targeted at children between the ages of 13 and 15 years. Over the course of 15 months, course participants are encouraged to explore the complex relationships of sustainable development at an extracurricular learning venue.
    More information [de]

    In addition to research activities, the associate partners of the MikroPlaTaS research project promote educational measures for children and adolescents on the topic of plastic in the environment. These include research projects conducted by individual students and pupils, as well as theme-based workshops and exhibitions for groups and school classes.
    More information [de]

    Reflectories are interactive learning tools which highlight the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the Institute of Geography Education, researchers have developed an online simulation game which addresses global problems based on a fictitious story. The simulation helps pupils recognise interconnections and act in a sustainability-conscious manner.
    More information [de]


Sustainability plays a central role in all transfer activities at the University of Münster. Apart from research and teaching, knowledge transfer is the third fundamental task that all universities are expected to perform. The University of Münster regards knowledge transfer as its civic responsibility. Transfer is broadly defined as cooperation and communication between the scientific sector and society. It is founded on a principle that goes beyond economic exploitation of knowledge and technology.

Operation and organisation

The University of Münster – like other societal actors – is called upon to address the thematic complex of sustainability. With regard to its operations, the University strives to initiate processes that contribute to sustainable development and which lie in its institutional scope of responsibility. This includes, for example, promoting energy efficiency and climate protection, ensuring responsible management of financial investments, and implementing socially acceptable personnel policies.

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    Energy and resource consumption

    The heating needs at the University of Münster have decreased by 30% and water usage by 25% since 2000. However, energy consumption rose by almost 40% between 2000 and 2019. This increase was caused by various factors, most significantly the expansion of usable space, energy-intensive research and additional energy demands resulting from digitalisation.


    • The University of Münster has purchased exclusively green electricity from external energy providers since 2009.
    • In 2008, the University of Münster established an energy management team whose core task is to successively optimise energy consumption and reduce costs while ensuring consumer needs are taken into account. With the aid of a comprehensive energy monitoring system, knowledge-based energy-saving measures are being identified and implemented.
    • Selected buildings have been equipped with photovoltaic systems (PV). In addition, experts are currently assessing in what form the University can install further PV systems in coordination with the BLB NRW (NRW Building and Property Management Association).
    • Thanks to its building control system installed years ago, the University can centrally manage its heating and cooling circuits and ventilation systems. This allows technicians to lower heating and cooling needs for individual buildings from a central location and quickly react to changing circumstances if necessary, e.g. by using intelligent metrology to determine low or non-utilisation for longer periods of time.
    • The University of Münster thermal power station (HKW) provides heat to almost all the 200 university-owned buildings. In 2004, the HKW switched from coal power to natural gas. Its technology is based on the principle of combined heating, cooling and power (CHCP) which allows the University to generate electricity, provide heating in the cold months and cooled air in the summer using only a single source of energy – in this case, natural gas. The boiler systems produce steam which is used by the University Hospital (UKM), e.g. for sterilising instruments. The steam is available for long-distance heating and can also power the electric turbines and absorption cooling machines so that excess steam can be efficiently used in the summer. In addition to heat produced by the boiler systems, additional district heating is provided by the city’s municipal electricity plant and coupling station. Centrally supplying energy to many, closely situated users is far more efficient and requires less maintenance and space than operating boilers in every building across campus.
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    Construction and renovation

    Green Building
    The geosciences building was constructed as a so-called “Green Building” and has been awarded the Gold Quality Level by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). Its construction uses a number of energy-saving measures, such as a photovoltaic system to generate electricity, a solar heating system that produces hot water, district heating drawn from the thermal plant with electricity-heating coupling, highly efficient building insulation and a so-called concrete-core activation for interior heating and cooling. All the systems can be efficiently operated at low cost by means of a building automation system. The building’s sustainability concept also extends to its conscious use of non-toxic building materials and 400 roofed bike stands. The University of Münster agreed to cover the surplus expenses resulting from additional energy-saving measures, totalling approximately 994,000 euros.

    Partnership with the BLB NRW
    The NRW Building and Property Management Association (BLB NRW) is the owner and landlord of almost every building used by the University of Münster. Consequently, the BLB serves as the contractor for most of the modernisation measures and building projects on campus. In consultation with the University, these projects are developed and implemented based on specifically defined usage requirements. The BLB orientates its measures to comply with the Sustainable Building Assessment System (BNB) and strives to achieve the BNB Silver Standard. In agreement with the BLB, the University wishes to take aspects of sustainability more frequently into account in its construction projects. As was the case of the geosciences building (see above), the University allocates budgetary resources of its own to finance additional sustainability measures.

  • Mobility

    The mobility of over 7,000 employees and almost 45,000 students plays a central role in the teaching activities, research operations and employment at the University of Münster. Ensuring mobility to and from the University must be managed in such a way that all members of the University can move about in an environmentally-friendly, needs-oriented and safe manner. The University of Münster promotes sustainable mobility through various measures.

    Job and semester ticket
    The University offers employees a so-called “JobTicket” which entitles them to use public bus and railway transportation at a reduced price. The JobTicket is an especially inexpensive ticket subscription plan for employees who live and work in Münster, or who commute to Münster every day. For professional trainees, the University offers an inexpensive AzubiAbo subscription (either for Münster, the region of Westphalia, or for all of NRW). And all students receive a semester ticket which entitles them to use all modes of public transportation in North Rhine-Westphalia for free.

    Service bicycles
    The University of Münster maintains a fleet of 450 service bicycles. These can be used by employees to travel short distances for work-related purposes in a flexible, environmentally-friendly manner. The bikes are normally assigned to individual employees who are free to use them during working hours. Employees also have the option of “renting” service bicycles for one or several days at a time on a temporary basis.

    In recent years, the University has been gradually replacing its fleet of gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles. In the meantime, the University operates six electric cars and one hybrid car. The University Library (ULB) has been using an e-cargo bike for transporting deliveries since 2019 which, in the past, would have been done with a minivan.

    The University of Münster has participated in the annual campaign “Bike to Work” since 2018. In addition to its obvious health benefits, the event promotes environmentally friendly mobility. With the aim of supporting bike commuters, climate protection and a higher quality of life, the University participated in the campaign “City Biking” in 2020 for the first time.

  • Finances

    The financial investment guidelines of the University of Münster stipulate that all capital investments, in which the University of Münster holds a direct or indirect position of (co-)ownership, adhere to the principle of sustainability. With regard to its financial investments, the University has pledged to meet the following minimum standards:

    • No participation in companies which tolerate or promote child labour.
    • No participation in companies which produce or market military weaponry.
    • No participation in companies which do not work to adopt sustainable energies.

Members of the University of Münster

The University of Münster is strongly committed to promoting an appreciative, respectful and equitable attitude toward and between all employees and students. Furthermore, the University recognises its responsibility to support its members in matters of personnel development and career advancement. The tasks of the Human Resources Department of the University of Münster include staff recruitment, staff retention, professional qualification and health promotion in matters related to the family-work balance, diversity, equal opportunity and internationalisation. The development and implementation of target group-oriented instruments and measures serve to ensure that the needs and goals of the University align with is commitment to support the strengths and personal interests of its employees. In this way, the Human Resources Department strategically contributes to maintaining and improving the overall performance of the University as an organisation and promoting the professional skills and satisfaction of the employees.

  • Diversity and equal opportunity

    The University of Münster has instituted a proactive equal opportunity and diversity policy which not only ensures equitable participation of all University members regardless of their ethnicity, religious or sexual orientation, age, gender or social background, but also regards diversity in all its dimensions as enrichment and opportunity. The University has ascribed itself the task to dismantle structural, inequitable treatment and discrimination and to establish true equal opportunity for women and men in all member groups. It promotes understanding, respect, recognition and appreciation for one another, supports equal opportunity and diversity at all levels and takes advantages of their intrinsic potentials.
    More information

  • Family-friendly policy

    The University of Münster is committed to enhancing its reputation as a family-friendly university and has been certified as such since 2008. This distinction comes in recognition of its efforts to institute family-friendly staffing policies and academic organisation. The regular “audit family-friendly university” certification serves to anchor this topic at the University of Münster in the long term. The University of Münster sees its family-friendly policies as an expression of a life-phase-oriented personnel development strategy. It provides a wide array of services that enable its employees and students to reconcile their professional, academic and familial responsibilities. Whether it is childcare, flexible hours, teleworking options, or support with caring for family members, the University offers numerous possibilities and measures that enable its members to adequately meet these challenges. The Family Service Office serves as the central contact point and provides relevant information and consultation to student parents and employees with children.
    More information

  • Occupational Health Management (OHM)

    The OHM manages health promotion, prevention and occupational safety by means of a systematic and comprehensive approach. Its primary goal is to optimise organisational and working structures in order to maintain healthy working conditions and ensure that the University remains a highly efficient academic institution. Consequently, the OHM is involved in many projects (e.g. construction projects, organisational restructuring, team development) at an early stage and promotes the health of University employees with a broad range of services and behavioural prevention measures. In addition to special continuing education programmes, employees can participate in the University Sports programme and events organised by the In-House Medical Service (AMD).
    More information (intranet users only)

  • Competence-oriented management development

    Management has a strong impact on employee motivation, satisfaction and health. Consequently, managers hold a key function at the University of Münster and largely contribute to the success of the University by creating the conditions for effective collaboration between staff members and leading their teams to achieve their organisational goals. Internal management development not only acknowledges this relationship, but also promotes tailor-made management competence through a variety of programmes. The University of Münster demands and supports good management and good collaboration between managers and staff, marked by mutual appreciation, respect and recognition.