Between tradition and a sustainable future at hochschule 21 University of Applied Sciences


hochschule 21 was founded in 2004 as a private University of Applied Sciences. We are located in the Hanseatic City of Buxtehude within the greater Hamburg Metropolitan Area and the wider region of the “Elbe- Weser-Dreieck”. Buxtehude, which has received the German Sustainability Award 2021, embraces the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and integrates them into the municipal level using them as a compass for strategic development.

Our university fits seamlessly into the city’s commitment to sustainability. Since 1875, architects and civil engineers have been educated in Buxtehude with academic standards. For decades, the public University of Applied Sciences has been in the same place. In 2004 the university, which was rich in tradition, was forced to close down and the time was ready to try something new. The private University of applied sciences was put on a broader footing with the areas of civil and technical engineering and health professions. Today, about 1200 students study at hochschule 21.

A focus on application

Since we focus on application-oriented courses, our students are well-prepared for their professional lives in their respective fields. Over the years, we have also successfully established a research focus in these areas as well as focusing on creating an interdisciplinary approach. The key aim is to enhance and support the transfer of knowledge between our distinct areas of expertise. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 companies endorse the philosophy of hochschule 21 and train dual students in Buxtehude. Duality in our health sciences courses means studying at hochschule 21 and joining a vocational training scheme at one of the training schools of our cooperating partners.

Interprofessional collaboration

The topics of sustainability and climate are anchored in all curricula. A new challenge for us now is interprofessional networking. In projects and research work, students are to contribute their knowledge jointly. The students then transfer the results to the respective companies, where they can be modified and implemented. The evaluations by the companies then have an influence on the teaching at the university. Through this integrative approach, we also hope to achieve more sustainable knowledge management. A recent initiative connecting interprofessional teaching and dedication to sustainability is ProSa – Project Ideas for Sustainability. In this elective module, which is open for all students at hochschule 21, small interprofessional groups of up to six students develop ideas under the topic “climate and sustainability”. Relevance and applicability of the project ideas are discussed with representatives of the Hanseatic City of Buxtehude. Thus, this module is not only a good example of one of many activities in sustainability development but also shows the positioning of the hochschule 21 within the local community.

Sustainability across the physiotherapy curriculum

Looking especially at the physiotherapy course, sustainability, planetary health, and global health are embedded in the curriculum in different modules. This starts early in the first semester when the students get to know the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) with the natural and the cultivated environment as influencing factors. The ICF and the bio-psycho-social approach integrating all relevant influences accompanies the students throughout the seven semesters. In higher semesters, students take an intersectional perspective in Gender and Diversity where the six primary dimensions of diversity with its relevance for the physiotherapy are discussed. The students have the opportunity to think outside of the box and their familiar life experiences looking at global health and challenges people have to face worldwide in the light of sustainability and health.

Susanne Klotz (PT, PhD)

Susanne Klotz (PT, PhD)

Professor at hochschule 21 and Research Associate at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

Susanne is a trained physiotherapist working in outpatient care before embarking on the road of science. After finishing her PhD, she remained true to the two passions of research and teaching. She works as professor at hochschule 21 where she teaches courses in research methods, in evidence based practice, and in gender and diversity. In addition to her teaching job, Susanne is responsible for the physiotherapeutic research at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.

Barbara Zimmermann-Michailidis

Barbara Zimmermann-Michailidis

Vice President of the hs21 University of Applied Sciences, Head of Department of Health, Programme Director Physiotherapy, Professor for Health Services Research

I started my working life as a medical doctor specializing in radiology and vascular surgery. Parallel to my medical work, I developed my teaching activities in the medical field with a focus on therapeutic disciplines in medicine as well as physiotherapy and applied nursing sciences. The focus was always on the safe and sustainable care of patients in both clinical and outpatient settings. My interprofessional research topics also focused on the optimisation of the quality of life for different age groups.

Get in touch

🇩🇪 We would love to hear from you and continue the conversation about our teaching about the importance of movement in the forest. If you have any feedback, questions or ideas that you would like to share with us, please contact Susanne Klotz via email or use the comment form below.


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