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HAW Hamburg cooperation with DUT Durban

Studying digitally and internationally

Its more than 160 partner universities make studying at HAW Hamburg multifaceted and attractive. But in addition to the opportunity to go abroad for one or two semesters, students also currently have the chance to take advantage of collaborations like that with the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in South Africa. This project allows students to gain international experience online, without leaving Hamburg.

Food analysis

For the last two years, HAW Hamburg and the Durban University of Technology (DUT) have had a cooperation agreement in place. Following the concretisation of this agreement in February 2020 by the instructors in the Department of Nutrition and Home Economics in the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Department of Food and Nutrition Consumer Sciences at the DUT and an initial two-week on-site course in Durban, the first joint online course for students at both universities is now about to start. The joint online course is based on the concept of collaborative online international learning (COIL). This means a remote teaching format where the participating students will work together on exercises in mixed international teams with the help of collaborative online tools such as Trello, Slack, Zoom and Moodle/EMIL.

In weekly online meetings via Zoom, the mixed student teams are given presentations on specific topics. They receive related instructions and exercises, which they need to structure, organise and complete within their group with the help of the collaborative tools. Where needed, students receive help online from the instructors. The team members also have to present the results of their work in the weekly meetings and as a written report at the end of the course.

Cooking at DUT Durban

Following the successful kick-off with the on-site course on food waste in Durban this spring, the online course will begin in November: 'As part of my Sustainability module, first-semester students from the HAW Hamburg Master's course in Food Science can work together with DUT students from the Food Waste course on the topics of food ethics and meat consumption,' said Prof. Sebastian Thiem, professor of food science at HAW Hamburg and co-initiator of the international exchange project.

The topic provides a good example of why international cooperation and the identification of joint solutions should begin early. Global food consumption habits and the food items used, as well as the ethical aspects of their production, are of interest to the public given the worrying state of our planet. 'The focus here is often the high level of meat consumption, which frequently results in ideological and dogmatic debates that too often lead to binary black-and-white thinking – meat or no meat', says Prof. Thiem. 'This type of emotionally charged discussion will not solve the fundamental problem. A more nuanced look at the various issues based on the facts seems to be appropriate and necessary. By this I mean international ethical, cultural and societal aspects. Unfortunately, this happens only rarely.'

Joint cooking workshop

The course Food Ethics and Meat Consumption aims to give students the ability to address and communicate a complex and emotional topic in a factual way.

In addition to the subject-related content, the international, intercultural and project-based cooperation represents another challenge facing the students. The course will give them the necessary skills to deal with this challenge. For example, the ability to communicate beyond intercultural barriers by integrating the cultural specificities of the others in their own communications strategies. The use of English – for example, in video conferences – and competency in using the collaborative tools are also a focus. Organisational skills, project organisation and the development of presentation skills in a digital and international team are also among the competencies students will gain.

Together with digital literacy and online learning, international digital cooperation and communications skills are among the key qualifications expected and demanded of future employees in businesses. The COIL course on food ethics and meat consumption is a step in this direction.

Prof. Sebastian Thiem, Professor of Food Science in the Faculty of Life Sciences

A similar course for students in the Nutrition and Home Economics Bachelor's degree course is planned for summer semester 2021.


Faculty of Life Sciences
Department of Nutrition and Home Economics
Prof. Dr. Sebastian Thiem
Professor of Food Science
T +49 176 314 88255
sebastian.thiem (at) haw-hamburg (dot) de