Master’s degree program in Ilulissat planned | Polarjournal
A fisherman near Ilulissat. The place is at the epicentre of climate change in a region where there is this very delicate triple interaction between inland ice, the ocean and society. (Photo: Heiner Kubny)

In view of the global temperature change that is changing life in Western Greenland, the government is considering whether it can set up a master’s degree course on climate change for local and international students in the municipality of Ilulissat in order to better understand the changing environment, especially in the area of Disco Bay. “We know that climate change will bring major changes for our society and for the whole world,” Greenland’s Education Minister Ane Lone Bagger said in a press release about the plan. “The changes are expected to be the biggest in the Arctic, so climate change must be included in the planning for our future society,” he said.

The Ilulissat Icefjord, below the Jakobshavn Glacier. Greenland’s Education Minister Ane Lone Bagger says offering advanced climate diplomas in Greenland will be an important part of preparing for the country’s climate adaptation. (Photo: Heiner Kubny)

The epicenter of climate change

Currently, a pedagogical school in Ilulissat offers bachelor’s degrees and in some courses professional, non-academic degrees. However, the Master’s degree would be the first of its kind to be offered in one of the smaller municipalities of Greenland.

The coastal municipality of Ilulissat has a population of about 4,600 people and is the third most populated municipality after Nuuk (about 18,000 people) and Sisimiut (about 5,500 people).

Ilulissat was chosen as the location for the proposed master’s degree course because of its unique location near Jakobshavn Glacier, one of the fastest flowing glaciers in the world, because of its proximity to a part of the ocean with rich stocks of Arctic halibut, and because of the window that would give students insight into the effects of climate change on all facets of life.

Carl Egede Boggild, special adviser to the Greenlandic Ministry of Education, Culture and Church. (Photo: Carl Egede Boggild)

“It is at the epicenter of climate change in a region where there is this very delicate triple interaction between inland ice, the ocean and society,” said Carl Egede Boggild, a special adviser to the Greenland’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Church.

“If you really want to see climate change in nature, this is the place to be,” he said in a phone interview with Eye on the Arctic. “To run a program in the middle of it, and a changing cryosphere can inform future Arctic researchers from Greenland and abroad.”

Partnership with the University of Copenhagen

Since the University of Greenland does not have a course on climate change, the proposed Master’s degree would initially be offered through the University of Copenhagen, which already has a program.

The program would be slowly built up, starting as a summer semester, and students would travel back and forth between Copenhagen and Ilulissat until Greenland finally takes over the program completely.

The University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Students interested in the new Master’s degree program would apply to this university and divide their time between it and Ilulissat. (Photo: University of Copenhagen)

The master’s degree would be offered in English and would be aimed at both Greenlandic and international students, with indigenous knowledge playing a key role, Boggild said.

The long-term vision of the Master’s degree involves the construction of facilities specifically for the course, with implications for job creation and the local economy.

“I expect such an education to provide our students with a scientific complement to a bachelor’s degree in humanities or social sciences, which is a strong starting point for working with planning and management,” said Education Minister Bagger. “I also see opportunities for the tourism sector, teacher training and other areas of education to benefit from participation in climate change courses.

Budget preparation

Education authorities say they do not yet have a date for when the program will begin accepting students, but are preparing a budget to be submitted to the Greenland government for the 2021-2022 financial year.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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