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The AUC themes are integral to the AUC curriculum and provide structure for examining complex and far-reaching questions that require the integration of insights from different fields of knowledge.

Themes at AUC 

The six themes at AUC are

  1. Energy, Climate and Sustainability;
  2. Life, Evolution, Universe;
  3. Health and Well-being;
  4. Information, Communication, Cognition;
  5. Social Systems;
  6. Cities and Cultures

First-year theme course

You select a theme within your intended major in your first semester and take an introductory ‘theme course’. This course will introduce you to a range of disciplines within your intended major and the contributions of different fields of knowledge. The course will also introduce some of the issues and research questions that are relevant to the theme you have selected. Your chosen theme then becomes the background to your choice of major in the sciences, social sciences or humanities. Your theme will guide you through the curriculum and will help you make course choices from the wide array of disciplines within the AUC curriculum.

Third-year theme course

You will be able to use the knowledge and skills you have acquired in your introductory theme course during your second and third years at AUC to make informed contributions to debates in a number of your classes. The different themes that you and your fellow students follow will allow you to bring a variety of insights to the discussion. You return to the theme itself in an advanced course in your third and final year. There you will be reunited with students who have followed the same theme, but different paths through the programme. You will debate problems and research issues together and, often, with the contribution of guest speakers in specialist fields.

Themes per major


Social Sciences


Life, Evolution and Universe Social Systems Cities and Cultures
Energy, Climate and Sustainability Health and
Health and
Information, Communication, Cognition
Information, Communication, Cognition


Six themes explained

  • Energy, Climate and Sustainability

    This theme addresses one of the fundamental challenges facing humanity in the future, with an emphasis on energy, climate and environmental and economic sustainability. It aims to show that these problems are inherently intertwined, making a systematic approach essential.

    These courses introduce the concept of sustainable development and discuss its implications within the context of energy policies and climate change. The carbon cycle and the Earth’s energy balance are explained to understand our (changing) climate and what measures are needed to limit global warming to a level that is considered acceptable. A major topic of discussion is energy, including the difference between work, energy and power, frequently used energy units, and basic thermodynamics to understand why energy conversions are inherently inefficient.

    The following energy sources are treated in detail: fossil fuels, nuclear energy, biomass, solar and wind energy. Physical concepts and equations are introduced to describe energy conversions, to calculate their potential for a significant contribution to our energy demand and to explore some of their limitations. Attention is also given to the concepts of reserves, environmental impacts, strategic concerns, costs and benefits. During this course, students will also do laboratory experiments on wind turbines and Stirling engines

  • Life, Evolution, Universe

    This theme covers all of the natural sciences and the central concept of evolution, starting from the earliest stages of the Big Bang to the evolution of complex life on planet Earth. The concept of evolution is approached from various disciplines, emphasising their interconnections. The focus will be on the evolution of the universe, the evolution of planet Earth and the evolution of complex life. 

    Three subjects have been selected for this theme: the Big Bang (nucleosynthesis, atoms, formation of structures at cosmological scales and the first stars, planets and the solar system), dynamics of earth systems (geological time, plate tectonics, basic isotopic systems and the co-evolution of life and earth) and milestones in the evolution of life (emergence of prokaryotes, eukaryotic cells, animals and the Cambrian explosion).

  • Health and Well-being

    Health and well-being, both on an individual and societal level, are important matters for our global society and humanity in general. This theme focuses on a number of issues that are relevant to ongoing research in the disciplines of biomedical sciences, health sciences and social sciences. The theme provides an interdisciplinary approach to studying and discussing the present and future challenges in the fields of health and disease prevention, both on a local and global scale. Throughout this theme, students are able to understand at an introductory level the following (medical) sciences:

    • General physiological concepts of regulation
    • Biochemistry and cell biology
    • Energy metabolism
    • Pharmacology
    • Genetics
    • Epidemiology
    • The internal environment, including elements of the cardiovascular system, renal system and endocrine system
    • Diet and nutrition
    • Systems biology

    Pre-med track

    Although not a theme, AUC also offers a more specific pre-med track.  For more information on the course requirements of the pre-med track, please view the link below. 

  • Information, Communication, Cognition (ICC)

    This theme groups several approaches to information and communication, as well as programming, design and other aspects of information processing related to cognition. The Information, Communication, Cognition theme explores the role of information in society, including its impact on social relations, culture, identity formation and communication. A number of issues from disciplinary perspectives are incorporated; from computer science, physics and linguistics, to narrative studies and economics.

    This theme is concerned with varieties of information structure (digital data, natural languages, information processing) and natural language structure (syntax, semantics, pragmatics). It addresses the problematic aspects of basic cognitive tasks, such as perception, memory, language and motor sense. You will study the structure of the brain as it relates to the problematic aspects of neurocognition. A portion is also be devoted to the study of social cognition, intelligent interaction, cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Further topics covered include: 

    • Information structure
    • Digital data
    • Natural languages
    • Information processing
    • Syntax
    • Semantics
    • Pragmatics
    • Neurocognition
    • Social cognition
    • Intelligent interaction
    • Cognitive psychology
    • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Social Systems

    The Social Systems theme encourages students to understand some of the problems of contemporary social regulation and what the disciplines of law, economics, political science, international relations and social sociology can contribute to the understanding of these problems. Students analyse and formulate possible solutions drawing on various concepts from law, economics, political science, international relations and anthropology. Areas of focus include interdisciplinary methodological differences, determining which approach can best be used in relation to social policy, the nature and role of legal reasoning and the relationship between the individual and collective decision making. 

    Although not a theme, AUC also offers a more specific pre-law track.  For more information on the composition and course requirements of the pre-law track, please view the link below. 

  • Cities and Cultures

    This theme offers an overview of theoretical concepts and practices in the broader field of humanities by examining the complex connections between cultural and urban life. In the modern age, city life has increasingly come to shape our understanding of cultural and social interaction, while the ‘global village’ of digital culture can be viewed both as an extension of this urban paradigm and as a potential way of breaking free of the alienation associated with modern cities. Using examples and case studies drawn from literature, film, comics, art history, architecture and the fine arts, this theme will stimulate an interdisciplinary conceptual approach to cities and cultures.

    Throughout this theme, students will investigate and debate the relationship between cities and cultures: is cultural life the same thing as metropolitan life? Does being “cultured” also mean being “urban”? How have cities shaped our understanding of art, history, identity and popular culture? And how do media and artworks, in turn, shape our understanding of cities? How can a broad humanities perspective help us understand the complex relationship between cities and cultures?

    The theme and themes courses are structured by a series of key theoretical concepts that bring together our understanding of both cities and cultures, and which can help formulate answers as well as introduce new questions. These key theoretical concepts include:

    • History and narrative
    • Industry and labour
    • Culture and identity
    • Digitisation and globalisation
    • Power and resistance