Upon completion of the program the student will demonstrate enhanced scientific capabilities in the following five categories:
(i) Knowledge of and insight into the study field - demonstrate enhanced knowledge of the field of tropical biodiversity and ecosystems, including interdisciplinary fields, and master the key concepts in their ecological and socio-ecological functioning - demonstrate enhanced understanding of the constituting biodiversity and environmental elements of one or more tropical ecosystems - demonstrate enhanced understanding of processes and/or methods and/or techniques in tropical biodiversity and ecosystem studies - demonstrate enhanced understanding of the stakes, challenges and open issues of conservation and management and therefore must be able to situate natural and anthropogenic impacts on tropical biodiversity and ecosystems into a holistic context.
(ii) Effective analysis and communication - demonstrate enhanced ability to collect, analyse and organise information and ideas and to convey those ideas clearly and fluently, in written, spoken and graphic forms in different languages - demonstrate enhanced ability to interact effectively with others in order to work towards a common outcome - demonstrate enhanced ability to select and use the appropriate level, style and means of communication and to apply scholarly conventions - demonstrate enhanced ability to engage effectively and appropriately with information and communication technologies - demonstrate enhanced ability to communicate visual and spatial information, statistical and modeling information - demonstrate enhanced ability to select and use the appropriate level, style and means of communicating academic research results into layman terms
(iii) Independence, creativity and assertiveness - demonstrate enhanced ability to work and learn independently and as a member of a team, and/or to generate ideas, and/or to identify problems, and/or to develop creative and effective solutions, and/or to synthesise concepts and knowledge - demonstrate enhanced assertiveness by defending own research findings
(iv) Critical judgement - demonstrate enhanced ability to critically analyse current international research and trends within the field of tropical biodiversity and ecosystems - demonstrate ability to apply critical reasoning to issues through independent thought and informed judgement - demonstrate ability to evaluate opinions, draw conclusions and to reflect critically on the justifications for those conclusions
(v) Ethical and social understanding - demonstrate some understanding of social responsibility and ethical scientific research
The student should be able to demonstrate these learning outcomes in a general framework and particularly in the framework of the unique specialisations encountered during each of the Trajectories. We recall that there are six possible European Trajectories complemented with a choice between three third-country HEIs, leading to a total of 18 unique Trajectories. Whereas the courses than can be chosen are unique to the Trajectory, in a more general way each semester of each Trajectory slowly integrates the above learning outcomes as follows:
- Learning outcomes of S1 (incl. possible pre-semestrial language school): acquire basic knowledge on and understanding of tropical biodiversity and ecosystems from general courses (similar in all European HEIs and Trajectories) complemented with a limited set of specialised courses (unique to each European HEI and therefore different between Trajectories) that will serve as a basis for the in situ experience in S2; acquire a number of general analysis and communication skills in the field of science (e.g. data analysis); put knowledge into practice using exercises, practicals and personal assignments; improve in one or more European languages to improve effective communication; get acquainted with new people and cultures in the S1 host HEI in general, and with the fellow-students of the Trajectory in particular.
- Additional learning outcomes of S2: acquire skills in geomatics (remote sensing and geographical information systems); acquire specialised theoretical and practical knowledge and skills (with respect to inventory, mapping, quality assessment, restoration and management) applied to a particular tropical ecosystem (tropical rainforest and woodland, mangrove or other coastal system); build confidence, independence and creativity in a field course and in fieldwork activities in a tropical site; improve languages by using them; network with new organisations through the fellow-students of the Trajectory and through the S2 host HEI; get acquainted with a new culture in a tropical environment (South-American, African or Australian); develop ethical and social understanding and tolerance.
- Additional learning outcomes of S3 (incl. possible language school): acquire in-depth knowledge, understanding and skills within the specialisation of the S3 host HEI; put knowledge and skills into practice using exercises, practicals and personal assignments; develop critical judgement on own data or other data; improve in one or more European languages; get acquainted with people and culture in the S3 host HEI.
- Additional learning outcomes of S4: conduct original scientific research on a topic related to tropical biodiversity and ecosystems; learn how to make and present a clear written and oral scientific presentation with an updated literature review, clear and sound objectives with appropriate sampling methodology, rigorous data analysis and essential results, integrated discussion that links back to scientific literature, and finally a clear conclusion; learn how to summarise the essentials of research in different languages; learn how to defend own research undertakings in an assertive way.
The learning outcomes can therefore be summarised as fundamental and applied scientific knowledge and skills with clear specialisations in tropical biodiversity and ecosystems, skills in data analysis, mobility Trajectories (socio-cultural world experience), and improvement in using European languages, scientific research and presentation skills.
We emphasize at this point that all these learning outcomes are essential in employability of the student as well as in pursuing further in-depth PhD research. Both national and international institutions dealing with biodiversity issues are very keen in recruiting multi-lingual students with a particular specialisation and with field experience. The fact that the students in each Trajectory transit at one point through Brussels or Paris is an asset to networking possibilities with large organisations such as UNESCO, UNEP, IUCN, European Commission, Flanders Marine Institute, some of which are associated partners. Some courses deliberately use such institutional links by visiting these institutions, by participating in activities organised by such institutions or by inviting speakers from these institutions (e.g. Governance and policy in development and cooperation, or Integrated coastal zone management). The same learning outcomes indicated above also serve to successfully defend a PhD proposal for a funding organisation. Such proposal defences heavily rely on a person's knowledge, experience, presentation skills and assertiveness, all of which are embedded in the learning outcomes above.
In order to match the courses (see Section 2D) to the educational learning outcomes (i.e. very specifically in the field of tropical biodiversity and ecosystems) we have first classified each course according to three categories, a category on the educational level of the course (basic or specialised), a category on the ecosystem element focused on (plant, animal, environment, human or interactions between one or more of these, or focused on methods & tools), and finally a category on the biological level (organism, population, community, ecosystem or global).
In the folowing Figure we make an attempt at this 4-dimensional exercise into a 2-dimensional visualisation: In this figure, the educational learning outcomes are tabulated with the ecosystem element(s) under focus in the course as rows, and the biological level as columns. In addition the educational level of the course is specified as basic or specialised. The cells intersecting human with the organism, population or community level are within domains beyond the scope of TROPIMUNDO (sociology, medicine), whereas the cells intersecting environment with the same biological levels do not make any sense. When looking at courses offered by the European HEIs in the remaining table cells, the complementary strengths of the partners (i.e. the specialisations in the Trajectories) clearly emerge: ULB-VUB covers a majority of all courses focusing on environment issues and on interactions between ecosystem elements offered amongst European partners, and nearly as much in the biological levels of population, community and ecosystem. UPMC-MNHN offers a majority of the courses with a plant or human focus (particularly those emphasizing the plant organism levels), and UNIFI a majority of the courses focusing on animal aspects (particularly courses on animal organism, animal ecosystem or animal global levels). Each Trajectory thus combines courses from different biological levels and with various focuses, but at the end of the Trajectory a given student's course list is clearly dominated by courses within the specialities defined. Because each third-country HEI was chosen because of tropical biodiversity and ecosystem specificities it is evident that virtually all their courses focus on community, ecosystem and global biological levels.