Affiliate Programs

IARU Global Summer Program - ETH Zurich, Switzerland

  • Summary

    Program Dates: July 7 - July 9, 2017

    The Global Summer Program (GSP) is an exciting learning experience that connects students from IARU universities with their peers from around the world. GSP participants have the unique opportunity to come together to explore and discuss critical issues in a global perspective that require multidisciplinary approaches.

    GSP courses are fun, but intense. Days are full as the classes are rigorous, requiring full-time commitment for the whole duration of the course.

    IARU universities include:

    Program Dates: July 7 - July 9, 2017

    The Australian National University
    ETH Zurich
    National University of Singapore
    Peking University
    UC Berkeley
    University of Cambridge
    University of Cape Town
    University of Copenhagen
    University of Oxford
    The University of Tokyo
    Yale University

  • Eligibility

    The ETH Sustainability Summer School 2017 will be open to 32 Bachelor, Master and PhD students from a wide range of nation­alities and disciplines such as Architecture, Biology, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Geomatics Engineering and Planning, Management, Technology and Economics, Public Policy, Law, Spatial Development and Infra­structure Systems, Computer Science, or Modeling.

    The course aims to ensure a well-balanced mixture between science, technology and social sciences. Candidates will be evaluated on their academic record, previous work experience, their readiness to work actively in the mountain forest, as well as their dedication to sustainability topics.


    • Excellent English skills (speaking and writing).

    • High motivation for interdisciplinary teamwork.

    • High motivation for practical work in mountain forests.

    Please note: Even if you are selected by your university as an outgoing student, this does not guarantee a place in this course.

  • Courses

    Course: Mountain Forests and Risk Management

    The ETH Sustainability Summer School 2017 goes back to the roots of the term sustainability: into the forest. More precisely, into the Swiss mountain forest.

    32 students from all academic levels, disciplines and cultures will get the unique opportunity to theoretically and practically experience mountain forests as environmental systems from an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective.

    Mountain forests provide a multitude of services on which mountain inhabitants as well as downstream communities depend. They supply timber, store carbon, regulate climate and offer recreational opportunities, and – very importantly – protect settlements and infrastructure from natural hazards such as avalanches or rockfall.

    Mountain forests are fragile, among others because only few tree species thrive under the harsh high-elevation conditions, soils often are shallow and prone to erosion on steep slopes, and biotic processes are slow due to short growing seasons. For example, the natural re-growth of forest after a blowdown event may take many decades. In addition, chronic anthropogenic changes of the climate as well as changes to the frequency and severity of extreme events (e.g. wet snowfall episodes, windthrow) constitute considerable hazards to these ecosystems.

    Managing mountain forests and risks is a long-term and costly process and everything but trivial. In order to maintain the functionality of forest ecosystem services, economical, ecological, social and engineering perspectives need to be considered. This year’s Summer School topic is thus a sustainability topic “par excellence”.

    In the theoretical part of the Summer School, participants will receive input by experts from academia, the private sector and NGOs that will cover all relevant perspectives. The acquired knowledge will be the basis for discussions as part of case study work as well as with local stakeholders on topics such as:

    • What should future natural hazard mitigation look like: natural mountain forests vs. artificial structures?

    • What is the future of economically marginal mountain settlements? How can the cost of maintaining human livelihoods in the mountains be reduced? Are these settlements on the verge of becoming “Alpine fallow land”?

    • Do we need “climate-smart” forest management that adapts to a changing climate and to changing demands for ecosystem services by humans, or will current practices suffice?

    • What is the role of (or need for) hunting to manage game populations in order to protect the forest against game damage, or is the re-immigration of carnivores like wolves and lynx a sustainable way to handle tree-herbivore interactions?

    In the practical part of the Summer School, participants will experience three days of “hands-on” work in a Swiss mountain forest, i.e. the realities of practical forest management work, and will be better able to assess the ecological, economic and engineering challenges that are important in the context of mountain forest management. Under the guidance of trained forestry personnel, the participants will be active in planting, clearing, building snow and wildlife protection measures, constructing footpaths and maintaining avalanche and torrent controls.

    Course location is the mountain seminar house Piz Alun in St. Margrethenberg ( close to Pfäfers, a mountain village in the Swiss Canton St. Gallen. The practical work will take place in the nearby protection forest maintained by a Volunteering-Programm of Swiss Re Foundation in partnership with

    For more information on the course, please visit the course page on the IARU GSP website.

  • Costs

    All tuition and program fees will be paid directly to ETH Zurich. Fees and living costs


    250 CHF


    Board and lodging included in tuition



    Living Expenses





    Santander Scholarship

    IARU and Santander Universities Global Division offers scholarships to support participation in the Global Summer Program. All accepted participants of the Global Summer Program will receive a guaranteed Santander Scholarship, disbursed by UC Berkeley. The scholarship amount is determined based on a flight estimate to the student’s destination, as well as estimated tuition and accommodation expenses. Students accepted into the program will be contacted by the GSP coordinator post-acceptance regarding their scholarships. No additional application is needed to receive the scholarship.


    Scholarship Directory


    A number of scholarship awards are available to UC Berkeley students participating in GSP. View our Scholarship Directory for additional awards that you might qualify for.

  • Timeline

    Application opens

    December 12, 2016

    Application closes

    March 17, 2017

    Applicants notified of selection by

    April 7, 2017

    Applicants confirm participation in program

    April 14, 2017

    All steps GSP participants take after April 14 will be coordinated directly with their host university.