Towards European Student Research HUB Networks to Foster Transdisciplinary Challenge-Based Education

22 February 2024

Educational project

Towards European Student Research HUB Networks to Foster Transdisciplinary Challenge-Based Education

Nowadays, an educational transition towards challenge-based approaches seems to be the best way forward for health-related studies. The novel EU-funded joint-degree Master’s program in Global Challenges for Sustainability, CHARM-EU, seems a promising option to improve our educational curricula. This project dives into the possibilities of this novel educational concept, to improve 4C skills, transdisciplinary mindset, and motivation.

Background information

Life, disease prevention, and health(care) are rapidly evolving. This demands for future professionals that can address grand challenges to reach societal impact. For this, so-called 4C skills (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving) are essential. The existing curricula in higher education have to be expanded so students are connected to a wide spectrum of disciplines, (inter)national partners, and (extra-academic) stakeholders. We believe that the transition towards globally-oriented transdisciplinary challenge-based education as an innovative framework in higher education is the appropriate way forward.


We aimed to develop a novel transdisciplinary, international, challenge-based educational concept, grounded in the theoretical framework of research-based education, to improve transdisciplinarity, academic skills, and motivation in higher education.

Project description

The novel EU-funded joint-degree Master’s program in Global Challenges for Sustainability, CHARM-EU (1) meets this demand. CHARM-EU is a European University that started in September 2021, formed by an alliance of five research-based universities. During the first edition of the CHARM-EU module Health Challenges & Solutions (six-week full-time elective module), we briefed a group of international students through a plenary session with researchers, medical specialists, patients, and stakeholders who all came together in Barcelona (2) . Students were divided over three universities to frame hypotheses and execute research from different disciplinary perspectives. To facilitate this, we have developed multiple designated Student Research HUBs – physical and interdisciplinary innovation spaces within the heart of university faculties that have short lines to local research, researchers, faculty, and stakeholders. Transdisciplinary collaboration among these HUBs is reinforced by weekly online plenary work meetings, workshops, lectures, and symposia. This innovative European Student Research HUB network allows students from different disciplinary backgrounds, researchers, faculty, and stakeholders to collaborate transdisciplinary and internationally on a single major societal challenge in the health domain (2).

Results and conclusion

The module was evaluated by anonymized written questionnaires and focus groups focused on transdisciplinarity, academic skills, and motivation. Students appreciated the relevance of the global health challenge and the transdisciplinary collaboration. The educational framework inspired, motivated, and stimulated development of academic skills. Additionally, students valued the journey of doing authentic research and the autonomy they were given during this module. Altogether, we have showcased a transdisciplinary, challenge-based concept in education that positively stimulates the development of 4C skills. The innovative concept of European-oriented transdisciplinary challenge-based education allows further upscaling towards a larger Student Research HUB network within and outside Europe with larger groups of students.


  1. CHARM-EU.
  2. Schakelaar MY, Bassat Q, Comiskey CM, Felvinczi K, Haarhuis JCM, Bovenschen N. Linked research hubs train students to tackle societal challenges. Nature. 2022 Nov;611(7936):449. doi: 10.1038/d41586-022-03665-w. PMID: 36380041

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