Interdisciplinarity 'avant la lettre'

IMDO was created in 1987 as a follow-up initiative of existing educational and research collaboration in the Environmental Science Program of the University of Antwerp. The Institute, known at the time as the ‘Institute for Environmental Science’, originally focused on providing education for professionals and for specific target groups in need of specialized and policy-oriented environmental knowledge. The Environmental Science Program, initiated in 1981, was soon complemented by other specific programs in the 1980s and ‘90s. The Institute educated environmental scientists, VLAREM-supervisors, and specialized environmental officials and introduced an interdisciplinary approach to environmental science. The precursor of the current Master in Environmental Science started in 1992-1993, and has since delivered a great number of graduates with strong interdisciplinary skills to the labour market.

Innovation, collaboration & networking

The Institute gradually developed into a forum where environmental experts reflecting a wide range of insights and approaches with regard to current environmental challenges, meet and set up common initiatives, such as educational programmes and interdisciplinary research projects. The ‘Integrated Water Resources Management’ Chair was created in 1995 at the Institute. In 1996, the Institute was one of the first to organize a company-oriented educational program for environmental coordinators.

The education provided by the Institute is grounded in the environmental & sustainanbility research performed by scientists in a wide range of disciplines. The interdisciplinary approach of environmental challenges –one of the ‘key research domains’ of the University of Antwerp – led  to the initiation of interdisciplinary research projects. The Institute coordinated innovative policy-supporting research in intergrated water resources management, strategic environmental assessment, environmental education and sustainability in higher education.

Experts from various backgrounds, including practitioners outside the University, were involved in the educational programs. This collaboration has always been a key element in the Institute’s approach, and has allowed to translate scientific findings into clear recommendations for public and private decision-makers.

Environment & Sustainable Development

The Institute managed to keep its key position in times of far-reaching educational reforms (e.g. the Bachelor-Master reform in 2004), and internal reorganization (the fusion of the University of Antwerp in 2003). Mirroring the evolution of environmental policies in Flanders, Belgium, Europe and beyond, the Institute transformed into the ‘Institute for Environment & Sustainable Development’ in 2008. IMDO continues to play its role by providing background and networking opportunities in the field of environmental sciences. IMDO currently focuses on educational renewal, international development, and on ongoing cross-cutting educational and research collaboration.