Sustainability Certificate

Democracy in Engineering Education - SEFI Spring School 2024

Do we need ethics or sustainability in engineering?
How to decide on this question? 

SEFI Spring School 2024
jointly organized by the two
SEFI Special Interest Groups on Ethics and Sustainability

10 - 12 April 2024 at TU Berlin

Program of the Spring School - first draft
Here is a first draft of the program which does not yet indicate the names of the presenters. Beginning of March we will publish the final program. In total we have over 40 persons from over 30 different universities and over 10 different countries. In addition, over 10 people signed up as participants.

If you want to participate please sign up via the form on the bottom of the page.


Inspiration for the title of the spring school - Children’s Book: Crocodile or Octopus?

The children’s book “Kroko oder Krake? Du musst dich entscheiden!” (“Crocodile or Octopus? You have to decide!”) by Jörg Mühle sets the tone for the spring school. The picture book gives a choice on each page, for instance whether you want to live in a huge mansion or a small house, whether you want to be raised by a serpent or an eagle, whether you want to get lost in the woods or in a crowd and of course if you would rather have a crocodile under your bed or an octopus in your bathtub. In engineering and higher education we are confronted with this every day. However while growing up we tend to reduce arising questions to all or nothing dilemmas that have only one valid answer. With this spring school we want to reflect on who gets to ask the questions and how to answer them as well as who gets to represent the choices and how to choose. And yes, we also want to regain a bit of playfulness in order to find creative solutions for what lies ahead.

Do we accept quick technological fixes to complex societal issues? At what cost?

A predominant belief in technological progress is held up through a society wishing for easy technological solutions for complex ecological and social problems. For instance, there is a strong demand for technological innovations as a remedy for ecological destruction as well as a pathway to end hunger and to establish peace. This belief in quick technological fixes is further held up by engineers who reduce the complexity of our local and global societies and their entanglement with nature to mere questions of optimization and efficiency. On a political level, these technological fixes are then presented as if there is no alternative to them which in return calls for their immediate, technocratic and often forceful implementation. Therefore, the question arises if this is still democratic or already authoritarian.

Questions and choices that are linked to the spring school

This SEFI Spring School on ethics and sustainability addresses the role of democracy in engineering education: How to decide on what and how to teach in engineering education? - Who gets to teach and learn engineering? - What is the societal role of universities (of technology)? - Should universities educate towards democracy? If yes, how is it done? If no, who else should take care of that? - Should (higher) education be democratic? If yes, what does that entail with regard to critical debate, protest and resistance on campus? - Are there core values in a democracy and how do they relate towards the values of engineering, ethics and sustainability? How to teach, learn and practice these values as (prospective) engineers? - What is the difference between an engineer as a professional and as a citizen with regard to democracy? - What can engineers do to contribute to a democratic and sustainable society? How can they be decision-makers and change agents? - Who should be integrated in decision-making processes on technology and when is it acceptable to leave someone out? - What purpose should technology serve? - Is a democracy better suited to implement sustainable development or should we leave sustainability to a benevolent dictator? - How can we uphold an equal right to freedom for all humans? - Is there a chance for peace without democracy and sustainability? ...



Come as you are and present what you do

Who should attend? - Heroes, villains and normal people

The SEFI Spring School is a community building event for everyone who is active in engineering education in relation towards democracy, sustainability, ethics and peace. It does not follow traditional formats of academic workshops/conferences but calls for participants who do things a bit or even a lot different and who want to reach out to others beyond any human-made border. Therefore, the spring school is as much about the people who participate as about what and how they do it. Students and staff, academics and professionals, artists and engineers, SEFI members and non-members, rogues and bureaucrats... are equally called to express their interest in presenting their work.

What should you present and how to put it up for discussion? - Enganging, provoking, disturbing, enchanting...

Please, show and tell what you do but more importantly let us experience and practice it first hand at the spring school. Thus, interactive and engaging formats are strongly preferred for example as 15 minute-activities, (a bit) longer workshops or short provoking presentations that stimulate discussion. Artistic formats and any other unconventional format is highly encouraged.

How to express an interest to attend? When is the deadline and when do you communicate the decision? - Fill in the form below

By the end of the deadline we received 42 proposals for talks/sessions/workshops. Until beginning of February we will play Lego and Tetris in order to create an inspiring program.
In case you missed the deadline and still want to join, please fill in the expression of interest


Do I need to send in a paper? Will there be some written output? - No and yes.

Within the organisational committee we currently discuss if and how there will be some written, academic output of the school which would include a DOI : ) ... However, please be aware that the written exchange is not the primary goal of this spring school but the actual, face-to-face cozyness, collaboration and confrontation.



Organization of the Spring School

When and where? - 10 - 12 April 2024 at TU Berlin

The SEFI Spring School 2024 starts on Wednesday, 10 April at 10.00 and finishes on Friday, 12 April at 15.00. There will be a pre-event on Tuesday evening as well as a post-event on Friday afternoon and evening - details will follow. The spring school will take place on the main campus of TU Berlin, close to Ernst-Reuter-Platz.

Who organizes the spring school? - We and you. Come on board!

The SEFI Spring School is jointly organized by the SEFI special interest groups on Ethics and Sustainability. Currently, the organization lies in the hands of Aida Guera (Aalborg University), Helena Kovacs (EPFL) and André Baier (TU Berlin). We want to take a collaborative approach so that you are welcome to co-design the programme of the spring school with us. If you have any ideas or want to get involved, please write an email to Spring-School(at)

Is this the first spring school or were there several others? It is the third.

The SEFI special interest group on ethics held two previous spring schools. The spring school on Engineering ethics education: Navigating uncertainty was held in 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. The spring school on Engineering ethics education and social justice: synthesis and growth was held in 2022 in Leysin, Switzerland. This year’s edition is the result of an intensified cooperation between the SEFI special interest groups on ethics and sustainability.



Fees and Hotel - Free!?

How much does it cost? - Free. Please show/take solidarity

Attendance at the SEFI Spring School is free. Coffee, tea, water and light food is served at the spring school. Lunch and dinner are paid individually by the participants. Travel costs and hotel costs can be quite high for some participants especially from low-income countries. Please, let us know if you or your institution is able to fund a lump sum to support the attendance of one participant. Please, also let us know if you need some financial support to attend the spring school.

Where to stay? - Hotel contingent at B&B Hotel Tiergarten and many other options

There is a hotel contingent of 20 rooms at B&B Hotel Tiergarten for stays from Tuesday to Friday for 321,50 Euro in total including breakfast. The hotel is less than a 10 minutes walk away from the venue. The hotel costs are to be paid by the participant. In order to reserve a room, please write an email until 27 January 2024 to the hotel with the keyword SEFI - berlin-tiergarten(at) - reserved rooms can be canceled until the last day. Apart from this hotel, there are many other hotels nearby, please check online.



Registration Form