spring 2023
SVF-3402 Critical Global Challenges - 15 ECTS

Type of course

This course is eligible for students admitted to the Ocean Leadership master’s degree program. It is not available to any other category of students as a singular or elective course.

Course content

The challenges confronting ocean leadership are daunting. While there are heightened global ambitions for sustainable utilization of ocean resources, progress to date has been unsatisfactory and a fragmented system of governance remains. As pressure mounts to find sustainable solutions, widespread pollution, loss of biodiversity, and climate change have reached crisis levels and threaten to undermine our life support systems. However, just when there is an urgent need for the world to come together to craft sustainable solutions, political systems are polarizing and inequities continue to increase. To tackle these critical global challenges, leaders need to understand key drivers and consequences of change, see interconnections between and beneath the crises, develop innovative approaches to governance, and find new ways to inspire and motivate change.

In this second course of the Ocean Leadership program, students will learn about the range of complex “wicked” problems facing the ocean and some of the key approaches being taken to address them. This includes an overview of how the critical global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and inequity are affecting the ocean and threatening societal safety, and how governance is currently being approached. The course will also explore how digital trends towards big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence both offer important tools to help address these critical global issues and create their own social, environmental, and technical challenges.

In surveying key governance approaches to addressing critical global challenges, the course will include a review of relevant frameworks (e.g., the sustainable development goals), assessment tools and standards (e.g., lifecycle assessment ), international bodies (e.g., the IPCC and IPBES), and networks (e.g., the UN global compact and high-level panel for a sustainable ocean economy, and the World Economic Forum friends of ocean action). Participants will be encouraged to explore connections across the different challenges and governance approaches, and consider how they relate to and impact different ocean sectors and activities.

Given the scope and diversity of the critical global challenges facing ocean governance and the need to address these through a systems perspective that considers social, ethical, environmental and technological dimensions, this course will also introduce the theory and practice of transformational leadership. Here emphasis is placed on the need for transformative change to tackle critical global challenges and the value of approaches to leadership that mobilize purpose, authenticity, empathy, care and inspiration to achieve this. Relatedly, the course addresses the importance of engaging with issues of equity, diversity and inclusion to address both the drivers and consequences of critical global challenges.

As part of an experience-based master’s program, students will be expected to reflect on how the information and training presented relates to their own professional work context and share their knowledge and experience with the group in a collaborative learning environment.

Objectives of the course

The candidates who complete the course are expected to have achieved the following outcomes:


Upon completion of the course, participants will have developed:

  • ability to describe and discuss critical global challenges to ocean sustainability from different perspectives
  • familiarity with basic rules and legal regimes for marine environmental protection and climate law
  • ability to compare and contrast important international bodies and initiatives in ocean governance
  • understanding of key concepts and perspectives related to big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • understanding of key concepts and perspectives on transformational leadership
  • familiarity with the challenges of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and how these are intrinsic in and responded to by law and governance


Upon completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • employ information from diverse sources in the formulation of robust arguments
  • analyze the value of existing theories and interpretations and identify relevant research methods to conduct scholarly work on practical and theoretical problems
  • exercise understanding and empathy with diverse people and positions
  • reflect on their own role within collaborative processes and identify relevant actions to improve it
  • analyze a problem from multiple perspectives and identify benefits and challenges for cross-disciplinary and cross-sector work
  • identify where advanced forms of data analysis can assist with problem solving and articulate relevant development and competence needs

General competence:

Upon completion of the course, participants will have the ability to:

  • describe and critically assess theories of relevance to the field of ocean leadership
  • effectively communicate the significance of global challenges to audiences beyond the boundaries of their own discipline and interests
  • identify and employ approaches to communication that engage, motivate and inspire different audiences
  • reflect on the needs, opportunities, and obstacles for advancing sustainability within their own context
  • articulate and reflectively engage with issues of equity, diversity and inclusion
  • apply knowledge and skills from ocean leadership in assignments related to global ocean sustainability challenges

Language of instruction and examination


Teaching methods

The course is taught through a combination of (face-to-face) intensive sessions in which participants come together to learn, share experiences, practice skills, and integrate knowledge across domains, and online modules on topics of relevance that can be completed by participants asynchronously in their own time and at their own pace.

The intensive sessions run over 4.5 days, with one scheduled at the beginning of the semester and one towards the end of semester. These sessions will include keynote lectures and interactive seminars on course topics. During the first session, participants will form teams to collaboratively work on a problem-based project throughout the semester. During the second session, participants will have an opportunity to present and receive feedback on their collaborative projects.

Between the two intensive sessions, participants will complete online modules covering relevant knowledge, concepts and perspectives across the domains of leadership and ethics, law and governance, and information and ocean technologies. They will also collaborate actively in their teams to identify, analyze and develop solutions to selected ocean challenges. The program has ambitious learning goals and will require substantial amounts of high-quality work between the two intensive sessions. Online discussion forums will provide opportunities for participants to connect, discuss online learning materials, and/or obtain feedback on assessment work in development.

Teaching in both the intensive sessions and the online modules will engage a range of methods and materials and may include, for example, keynote lectures and interviews with renowned international experts, interactive exercises and activities, instructional videos and filmed talks, podcasts and readings, panel and roundtable discussions, and field site visits or virtual tours.


Examination: Date: Grade scale:
Assignment 07.06.2023 14:00 (Hand in) Passed / Not Passed

Coursework requirements:

To take an examination, the student must have passed the following coursework requirements:

Completion of online modules Approved – not approved
Attendance at intensive sessions Approved – not approved
Attendance at online discussion session Approved – not approved
Project presentation Approved – not approved
Reflection paper Approved – not approved
UiT Exams homepage

More info about the coursework requirements

Work requirements:

Work requirements have to be completed to be eligible to take the subject’s exam. All work requirements must be completed and approved 2 weeks before the exam.

Work requirements for this subject include: Completion of all online modules; attendance at both intensive sessions; participation in at least one online discussion forum; a project presentation (prepared and delivered by the team during the second intensive session); submission of a reflection paper (written by individuals reflecting on their learning throughout the course, as well as the collaborative teamwork process and their role within it).

More info about the assignment


As an experience-based master’s program that aims to support peer to peer learning, all participants are expected to actively engage in discussions and group work activities.


A teamwork assignment on a topic related to critical global challenges to sustainability.

The specific topic for the assignment will be presented, and the teams determined, during the first intensive session of the course. Teams will then work together on the assignment throughout the rest of the semester.

The specific format (style, audience etc.) for the assignment may vary to align with participants’ interests and professional contexts. The available options will be outlined and decided by the teams during the first intensive session.

Students will be asked to sign a code of conduct related to their participation in group work and are encouraged to work together to find solutions to any problems that may arise.

The assignment will be granted a pass or fail grade.

Re-sit examination

Re-sit: Participants who do not pass the assessment in this course are entitled to a re-sit.
  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 15
  • Course code: SVF-3402
  • Earlier years and semesters for this topic