Theory and practice of European co-operative education and training for the support of energy transition

Stephan Maier*, Michael Narodoslawsky, Lidia Borell-Damián, Maarten Arentsen, Marlene Kienberger, Wolfgang Bauer, Maria Ortner, Nigel Foxhall, Gerhard Oswald, Joan Marc Joval, Yoram Krozer, Theresa Urbanz, Christian Sakulin, Sebestyen Tihamer-Tibor, Viktorija Dobravec

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: European visions such as the European Commission's Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan and the SET Plan Roadmap Education and Training encourages higher education institutions (HEI) and business to establish adequate co-operative education and training approaches in the face of the challenges posed by the energy transition necessary to achieve European Union's climate goals. The development of integrated co-operative education, training and learning systems is a fundamental strategy to foster co-operation between academic institutions and business. Methods: Available sources about the theoretical and practical knowledge of co-operative education and training are limited. To identify available information and create new information where there is no this research was carried out by means of a literature study and a database search on existing co-operative education formats. This was supplemented by an analysis of seven actual case study reports regarding examples drawn from the BioEnergyTrain (BET) project commissioned under the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme. Results: Co-operation for educational purposes between higher education institutions (HEI) and business exists on the curricular, course and internship level.Considering the total number of studies on a curricular level in Europe, only very few co-operative education programmes exist. On the curricular level, most of the appropriate formats are dual studies with Bachelors' programmes, fewer are dual studies with Master's programmes. Co-operation formats on the course level do not follow institutionalised rules and are case-specifically applied. The studies presented in this journal dealing with practical examples emphasise the high potential for improving student's skills and insight into business that such co-operative formats offer to universities and business partners.Co-operation on an internship level has a long tradition of exposing students to the business environment they will later work in. Internships however do not provide high-intensity co-operation between business and HEIs. Therefore, it is outside the focus of this paper's attention. Results of statistical analysis reveal a total number of 19,822 related dual study programmes in the year 2018 alone in Germany whereas, for co-operative curricula on a master's level, just 73 can be tracked in whole Europe. Results of the case study reports are further discussed in Additional files 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Discussion: Existing research and descriptions of co-operative education and training are limited. However, based on the available sources, this study discusses co-operative education regarding its roots, types, role of business, type of rotation, salary, and legal issues as well as efforts on a European level to create and put into practice adequate forms of co-operative education supplemented by case studies. The huge gap between generally available dual study programmes on a bachelor's and master's level and available studies throughout Europe is partly related to the fact that most of the dual study programmes are on a bachelor's level and partly related to a limited sharing of collective university information on comprehensive platforms. Through the main foci of the study on the theoretical background of co-operative studies as well as the practical implementation of co-operative education practice, all European academic institutions could not be contacted and analysed individually. Conclusions: There is not much available data on co-operative study programmes. This may be due to the fact that co-operation in education and training between academic institutions and business plays only a minor role in the overall education system. Apart from dual study programmes, co-operative education and training formats usually are not defined unambiguously because the number of co-operative education programmes directed towards meeting the challenges posed by the energy transition is low. Although both the SET Plan Roadmap Education and Training developed within the SET Plan process and the Action Agenda for European Universities developed by the European University Association (EUA) identify co-operation between HEIs and business as crucial to meet these challenges (Borrell-Damian and Narodoslawsky [Additional file 1]), much remains to be done in this respect. There is a need for institutions all over Europe which are able and willing to provide a platform for such co-operation and co-ordinate the development of co-operative learning formats, especially on the course level, across sectoral boundaries. The energy transition definitely requires adequately trained people to deal with and create low emission energy systems and the challenges arising therewith.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy, Sustainability and Society
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2019


  • Co-operative education and training
  • Dual learning
  • Energiewende
  • Energy transition
  • Energy turn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Development
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems

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