Self-determined Studies?

Today’s generation is facing great challenges. Humanitarian as well as ecological crises must be overcome in the face of climate change and globalisation. What tools do they need to develop sustainable ideas for the necessary transformation of society? And what kind of degree programme can provide them with those tools? Answers to these questions are being sought by the non-profit association “Selbstbestimmt studieren” (self-determined studies), where students and lecturers are jointly developing the “Philosophy and Shaping Society” bachelor’s degree programme. In continuous dialogue – including with external experts – they are testing independent curricula the young people would like to include in the programme content. Co-initiator Charlotte von Bonin is convinced that “in the process, we are developing skills that will allow us to participate in changing the world. We are learning to shape our present and future freely, in a self-determined and contemplative way. Because one thing is clear: We have to change the world if we want to continue living on this planet.” And her fellow student Fedelma Wiebelitz adds: “We are finding new opportunities to help shape our studies autonomously as well as to actively and proactively make our educational path our own.”

The association is currently cooperating with the Philosophy Seminar of the Kues Academy for European Intellectual History, an academic association based in Bernkastel-Kues. For future accreditation, talks are underway with various universities. Since spring 2021, the association has rented a seminar building in the future village of Sonnerden in the Rhön Mountains, a joint project of young families who want to create a contemporary living, working and learning space. The former Rhön Academy building offers overnight accommodation, a lounge area and two seminar rooms – thus providing the necessary potential to further expand the initiative. “‘Self-Determined Studies’ is an ambitious project from which we hope to gain important insight for new, innovative forms of higher education”, says SAGST project manager Andreas Rebmann. “More than the connection between philosophy, education and society, the new methodological-didactic elements envisaged could lead to interesting alternatives in view of the often very school-like courses offered at universities.”