Interdisciplinary Courses

The interdisciplinary courses (ID courses) are the first courses that the new BIGS-DR students attend in their first year. The courses introduce the participants to the phenomenon of interdisciplinary development research. Students get an overview of the debates on interdisciplinarity, with a focus on ZEF's core research areas.The course is open to doctoral students from outside of BIGS-DR. For BIGS-DR students, the ID courses are followed by disciplinary course work in the respective departments and a term paper.

The courses aim to facilitate "boundary crossing", which is the defining characteristic of interdisciplinary research. The crossing of disciplinary boundaries is a complex process involving theoretical, methodological and institutional boundaries, apart from cultural, political, geographical, research-policy and society boundaries. Students will be encouraged to debate a number of these issues with experts in these fields.

The current ID course plan is avaliable for download:


The so-called "knowledge related learning objectives" refer to acquiring knowledge on the state of the art of the discussion on and approaches to interdisciplinary research relevant to the field that ZEF is working on. This involves learning about interdisciplinarity as a notion in general, and specifically about the different dimensions of interdisciplinary research on complex development problems.

The ID courses seek to inculcate and strengthen in participants two attitudinal characteristics: An open and inquisitive attitude towards other disciplines, fields of study and scientific cultures; and a critical and reflective attitude towards the normative dimensions of science and of development. These two attitudinal characteristics will help participants to develop a well-considered personal positioning in the field of interdisciplinary development research.

Structure and examination

Course structure

The ID course consists of different thematic blocks:

  • Block 1: development & history of economics
  • Block 2: interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinary decision modeling
  • Block 3: ZEF research areas (applied land-use, climate change, food security, governance, poverty, inequality, ecology)
  • Block 4: presentation skills ("prospects and challenges of development in my country")


Participants have to fulfill several assignments during the course and write a joint term paper with an interdiscplinary team after the lectures.

Lecturers and management

The list of lecturers is available here.