Apr 6, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Real world success involves looking at complex problems from many different perspectives while drawing on a comprehensive range of information in order to identify the most promising solutions. So why should the academic approach be any different? This philosophy is the impetus for a popular trend in higher education toward multidisciplinary studies. Here’ a closer look at why multidisciplinary master’s degrees are so valuable, along with an example of a program that’s getting it right.

The 411 on Multidisciplinary Master’s Degrees

“The knowledge economy requires an adept workforce and cadre of leaders to help address the many challenges and needs facing companies, governments and societies worldwide,” according to a recent piece published in the academic journal, Palgrave Communications: “Many of the challenges we face today are new and there will undoubtedly be others arising in the future that will require innovative approaches and solutions to overcome them. No longer are higher education institutions able to train graduates to address all of the current and emerging challenges from a singular disciplinary source.”

Enter multidisciplinary studies. Rather than teaching students to look at a problem within one intensive yet narrow context, this growing field encourages them to draw on a broad range of sources and subject matter. Explains the Palgrave Communications article, “Higher education disciplinary approaches often tend to focus only on a set of trees within a great forest. While disciplinary experts are essential for understanding particular ways of knowing within specific fields of study, their perspectives in addressing larger and more complex issues is often limited.”

In other words, the ability to solve complex problems ultimately relies not on extensive knowledge of a single focus area, but on the ability to apply critical thinking skills to make connections, synthesize different perspectives, and acquire new knowledge -- all toward supporting the development of invaluable holistic perspectives. After all, what good is a solution if, in its lack of a broader context, it only creates new problems elsewhere? In giving students the freedom to roam outside the conventional constraints of a single discipline while tailoring their own degree programs to meet their academic visions, multidisciplinary programs open new doors (and windows) for today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders to devise new, comprehensive and lasting opportunities. 

And contrary to common misconception, multidisciplinary studies aren’t just for students who don’t know what to study. Rather, a master’s degree in multidisciplinary studies can expand a student’s potential both within a specific area and also in terms of transferring that knowledge in the most meaningful and impactful ways (Note: if you aren’t yet sure of your career objectives, meanwhile, multidisciplinary studies can play a vital role in helping you narrow down your options).

An added benefit of allowing students to create and follow their own paths? They also develop a vested interest in their studies and are therefore more highly motivated.


Why Choose Multidisciplinary Studies at Hanze University?

Hanze University of Applied Sciences (Hanze UAS) in Groningen, the Netherlands sets the standard when it comes to multidisciplinary studies thanks to nine internationally recognized Master’s programs in business, communication, art, music and engineering.

For example, the aim of Hanze UAS’s European Master in Renewable Energy is to develop professionals capable of filling the gap between the growing industry demand for specialized renewable energy expertise and the skills currently available on the job market. An urgent demand also exists for trained staff specializing in renewable energy technology. Therefore the European Master in Sustainable Energy System Management’s focuses on the business aspect of energy transition and also offers an interesting career perspective.

The Master in Sensor System Engineering, meanwhile, prepares students for bright futures in the world of sensor technology, a subject area that is rapidly growing and which will provide all kinds of interesting career opportunities for ambitious engineers.

Lastly, the Master in International Business & Management offers a double degree with our partner university in Cambridge and has a unique boardroom concept that prepares students for complex decision making in a dynamic international business environment. (Interested in where the Master in International Communication will lead you? Watch this video to find out in which parts of the world some of our alumni have ended up.)

What do all of these programs share in common? They aren’t just focused on educating students, but also on cultivating tomorrow-ready leaders. With society facing more challenges than ever due to the increasing rate of globalization and digitalization, the demand for multidisciplinary teams of flexible and innovative experts in their fields is growing. Hanze UAS trains students to see issues and problems in their rightful context and from there to transform them into opportunities. Its Master’s programs build on the knowledge and abilities students have acquired during their undergraduate studies and encourage them to deepen their understanding within their areas of expertise while linking this knowledge to other relevant areas.

An added benefit of choosing Hanze UAS? Groningen is the place to be for students. A dynamic, innovative, thought leader in areas such as culture and technology, Groningen was recently crowned “Best Student City of the Netherlands 2016” by Dutch news magazine Elsevier and research firm ResearchNed. This vibrant city scored highest on measures of cultural hotspots, nightlife and restaurants, and relative student population.

In fact, what truly sets Groningen apart from other cities in the Netherlands is its low average age. Almost 25 percent of its 200,000 citizens are students! The 40,000 students who call Groningen home during their studies at the University of Groningen and Hanze UAS bring the city to life. The two universities also share facilities and collaborate -- meaning exponentially larger opportunities for students at both schools. The takeaway? Choosing Groningen means choosing the best student experience you can get!


In sum, choosing to pursue a Master’s at Hanze UAS offers the following amazing benefits:

- Obtaining a MSc, MA or MBA title in 1 to 1.5 years

- Pursuing interests in greater depth

- Gaining a multidisciplinary perspective

- Building and expanding professional networks

- Experiencing life in the diverse, student-centric community of Groningen

For more information on how multidisciplinary studies in one of Hanze UAS’s international Master’s programs can help you reach your academic and professional goals,  download a brochure, check out the school’s Facebook page, or visit on Open Day this Friday, April 7th or  the Master’s Market on Tuesday May 2nd to take a tour of the campus and the city while also meeting with lecturers and students from the programs.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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