Campus - 14.02.2019 - 00:00 

Contextual Studies – orientation for professional and public life

The Contextual Studies course is one of the unique selling points of the University of St.Gallen (HSG). It teaches students social, historical and cultural awareness, and will be offered for the first time in its comprehensively revised form from the beginning of the 2018 autumn semester.

14 Februar 2019. The Contextual Studies course at the University of St.Gallen started with the implementation of the Bologna reform in 2001. However, the basic idea of contextual studies has always been part of the HSG. It was already part of the founding curriculum of the commercial academy in 1898 and has been constantly developed ever since. The basic idea is to not only teach students expertise in their economics, law and social science core subject, but to impart social, historical and cultural awareness that helps them orientate themselves in professional and public life. The goal is to enable graduates of the University of St.Gallen to recognise the interrelations between economic, social, technological and cultural developments and to estimate their impact on our politics, laws and economy. The Contextual Studies course aims to help them to adequately analyse and reflect on complex processes.

From history to technology

Back in 2001, compatibility with the Bologna reform was important. So a distinction was made between the three pillars: Cultural competence, self-reflection skills and empowerment. However, this distinction has proved to be rather selective over the years. In addition, the offer became increasingly diverse due to the increasing number of students. Thus, the President's Board of the University of St.Gallen decided to comprehensively reform the Contextual Studies course. The result is eight focus areas in which students can deepen their knowledge: media, cultures, history, society, responsibility, creativity, law and technology. This enables students to build a new professional community in the Contextual Studies course and acquire additional qualifications, which are also explicitly stated in their "Diploma Supplement".

Highly topical issues

The establishment of focus areas enables an in-depth analysis of highly topical and socially relevant issues: How is digitisation affecting society, the economy and politics (technologies)? What does the rise of China mean for the organisation and culture of global companies (cultures)? What conclusions does the history of automation allow to be drawn about today's predictions of digital mass unemployment (history)? How does social inequality come about, what effects does it have and what can be done to reduce it (society)? Can production, commerce and consumption become more sustainable in the face of increasing globalisation (responsibility)? What influence do open-plan offices have on teamwork and collective performance (creativity)?

One quarter of the course work

The Contextual Studies course comprehensively broadens the horizons of students at the University of St.Gallen, which is particularly important in times of economic and political uncertainty. The Contextual Studies course not only teaches other skills and knowledge, the forms of teaching and learning also sometimes differ significantly from those of the core studies, permitting more independent research, presentations, questions, discussion and debates. This means that students take on a far more active role in shaping the lessons and the learning process as a whole. The Contextual Studies course currently accounts for 25% of the course work at all levels and across all programmes.

Photo: Adobe Stock / Sergey Nivens

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