Permaculture for Academia

Conference "Permaculture for Academia"

29-30.09.2018, Kyiv, Ukraine

The conference was focused on the academic and vocational adult permaculture education, primarily in the Visegrad counties and in Ukraine:
Conference materials

Сonference proceedings

Editors: Anežka Horynová, Zuzana Spakova, Alfred Szilágyi, Pavlo Ardanov.


Permaculture education is typical for informal teaching institutions, e.g.  PDC (Certification Permaculture Design Course) where students get the basic knowledge about permaculture practice and design. However, to diversify approaches it is also important to offer Permaculture in university environment thus students can get another perspective for a problem solving. Students obtain specific knowledge about their own field of study but usually have not enough information how systems are interconnected. E.g. how water cycle system is connected to food systems and its influence on society. Permaculture and its holistic approach can reveal those interconnections and shows where the possible solution possibly lies.

The aim of this proceeding is to present permaculture education at universities, its forms and abundance. The main focus is on Visegrad countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) and Ukraine, but a few examples of experience from another countries are also included.

Source of information in this proceeding is from questionnaire distributed in August 2018 (see all answers here).  

Permaculture education

In this chapter the main differences and similarities between informal and formal adult permaculture education in the countries of Visegrad region and in Ukraine are described.

Informal Education

National or regional NGO organise PDC and short courses on different topics, teachers are usually experienced permaculture designers. Courses are usually short term, they last a weekend, a day or from 72 hours up to 90 hours (PDC). Short term courses are focused on one specific topic (water in garden, vegetable growing, seeds preservation, etc.).

Advantage of informal courses is the possibility to advance the knowledge and skills in the topic of interest and in a relatively short time. However, those courses might be expensive and students can be on different level of knowledge and specialisation which might be both complicated and beneficial for the learning group.

Main organisations of informal permaculture education in the Visegrad countries and Ukraine are:

Formal adult permaculture Education

Іs represented by universities and vocational institutions. In the Visegrad region and Ukraine, surveyed universities usually teach permaculture as mainly optional course where students create their own design for a garden or a farm.

The advantage of formal education is the detailed and deep subject knowledge which, in  combination with solution-oriented permaculture, create perfect conditions for students to come with an appropriate design and ideas.

Permaculture education in the Visegrad countries and Ukraine


Permaculture education on the universities - outputs of the survey:

Czech republic

Dana Křivánková
Masaryk University, Brno
Perla Kuchtová,
Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague
Josef Holec,
Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague
Jan Winkler, Mendel University, Brno
Program/course Permaculture (optional course) Programs: Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
Sustainable agriculture and food security
Natural resources and environment
Fundamentals of Agroecology (mandatory course) Permaculture techniques (optional course)
Educational level BSc, BA BSc, MSc BSc BSc, MSc
Theoretical / practical Theoretical Both Theoretical lectures, seminars based on individual work Mostly theoretical
Academic hours 26 - 2+2 per week 0+2 per week
Testing Distinguishing test, exam fail/pass - Combination of written test and oral examination Oral examination
ECTS 3 - 4 3
Components of education program Seminar work and excursions with a practical workshop - Seminars Seminars



Valentyna Movchan, Open International University of Human Development “Ukraine” (planned course)
Program/course Ecology and environmental ethics
Educational level BSc, MSc
Theoretical / practical 50/50
Academic hours 90
Testing Differentiated test
Components of education program Training course



Apolka Ujj, Szent István University, Budapest Imre Tirczka, Szent Istvan University, Gödöllő Zita Szalai, Szent István University Budapest
Program/course Vocational training in organic vegetable and fruit production Organic Farming Engineer MSc Organic farming (optional course)
Educational level Adults MSc BSc
Theoretical / practical 40/60 50/50 50/50
Academic hours 360 4 semesters 42
Testing - Various evaluation of individual subjects, final exam includes defense of the diploma, of the individual design project and final exam from the learnt subjects Written exam, oral presentation
ECTS - 120 2
Components of education program Practice out of the classroom - the form depends on the teacher Organic husbandry/ arable farming/ horticulture, ecology, soil management, marketing. Field visits. Individual design project. Training course, introduction to permaculture design work, permaculture design


Others Benjamin Habib, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia Immo Fiebrig, Coventry University, UK Maria Eulalia Garcia Marin, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Meddelin, Colombia Eric Toensmeier, Yale University, Connecticut, USA
Program/course Bachelor of International Relations MSc Agroecology, Water and Food Sovereignty Ecology course in culture (optional course) Agricultural Climate Change Mitigation
Educational level BSc, BA MSc, PhD Multilevel MSc
Theoretical / practical Both - - More theory
Academic hours - - - -
Testing - - - -
ECTS - - - -
Components of education program - - - Field trips, working in small groups


Course annotations

Czech Republic

Mendel University in Brno

Faculty of AgriScience

Department of Plant Biology

Course: Permaculture Techniques

Dr. Helena Vlašínová was a founder and a great propagator of permaculture principles at the Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic. Approximately from 2006, the University offers optional lectures for students and public. In 2010 the course Permaculture Techniques was accredited there. Currently it is taught in summer semester (February - May). The course is taught as 2 lessons of practical seminars a week, there are no lectures. Approximately by 50 students per year are enrolled to the course, usually those from agronomic and horticulture faculties.

The lessons are focused on both small scale (household) and large scale (farmer) implementation of permaculture. Seminar topics include alternative approaches to soil management, biodiversity support, crop rotation, polycultures, cover crops, as well as the new economic approaches (e.g. circular economy). Teaching is based mostly on individual work of students who search for solutions to implement their goals with broad practical application. Students discuss and compare different solutions and design approaches with teacher guiding their discussion and highlights possible risks of their designs. The aim is to teach students to think in a wider context and to search for synergistic solutions; finding balance between food production and environment protection.

(source: Jan Winkler)


Masaryk University in Brno

Faculty of Social Studies

Department of Environmental Studies

Course: Permaculture

Graduates of this course have knowledge about both of the theoretical basics and practical application of permaculture. They should understand background and basic permaculture principles, including ethical ones. Even though the former accent of permaculture was mainly on farming that respects nature ("permanent agriculture"), the application of ecosystem model to other areas of life (ethics, education, economics, architecture, construction, energy resources, bioregions, ...) allowed permaculture to spread as a practical approach for designing sustainable society. Students will have opportunity to see many examples of applications of PC principles and techniques, and acquire basic knowledge and skills that can help them in making decisions and building sustainable systems in conditions of limited energy resources.

The use of digital presentations is combined with the interactive creating of "mind maps" and with "brainstormings". The course includes student’s presentations, discussion and comments of the lecturer. Two written tests are done for feedback. One simulation game is played for better understanding. Excursion to three permaculture projects supports theory by practical examples.



Szent István University in Budapest

Faculty of Horticulture

Department of Ecological Farming and Sustainable Production Systems

Course: Trends of Organic Farming in Practice

Organic Farming


Sustainability in Horticultural Production

  1. Organic farming: compulsory subject for BSc students - permaculture is introduced to students as one of the practical trend in organic farming.
  2. Trends of organic farming in practice: optional subject for students - based on permaculture theory and practice.
  3. Permaculture: optional subject for students: introducing theory and design approaches.
  4. Sustainability in horticultural production: optional subject for students - based on different methods of sustainable farming where permaculture theory and practical examples are combined in lectures.

(source: Zita Szalai)


Szent István University, Gödöllő

Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Course: Vocational training in organic vegetable and fruit production

Practically-based, quality training which strengthens the status of qualified practitioners in the hands-on sector of organic farming. Two 380-hour courses are accredited educating organic vegetable growers and organic fruit producers.

“Within our courses (organic vegetable growing and organic fruit production) the organic vegetable and fruit grower network (including 75 farms in Europe) offers a practical placement for our students. Thus during the training the students have an opportunity to get an insight into the problem solving techniques on organic farms. At the final exam students discuss their individual and regional challenges.

Teaching methods depend on the subject and teacher. I have to say that university teachers need more training in order to apply interactive methods within their courses.

Our students are adults. They come to the course since they want to learn producing techniques. We do not link them with their potential employers, as most of them are self-employed, and primarily they want to produce for their own family.”

(source: Apolka Ujj)

Szent István University in Gödöllő

Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Institute of Nature Conservation and Landscape Management

Course: Organic Farming Msc

This MSc course includes all aspects of organic farming from the basics (principles, regulations) till the profound details (animal husbandry, horticulture, arable farming, economy, marketing, design). The students get competence in designing, and managing organic farming activities. They are also capable of conducting research and to lead innovation and development in the organic sector.

Permaculture in the curriculum:

  • In the subject The regulation of organic farming there is a lecture on permaculture. Also in other subjects permaculture is cited.
  • During the whole course students have to design a complete organic farm in which they have to integrate all the acquired knowledge.

“It is unique in Hungary in the agrarian universities to have a separate Msc course dedicated only to organic farming. The other special feature is the individual design project that the students have to complete during the course. Throughout the 4 semesters for the main subjects individual design project have to be done which are built upon each other to form a final integrated design project at the end.”

Figure: The complex interaction within the curriculum of organic farming Msc which give base for the integration of the knowledge acquired in individual subjects, in the individual design project.

(source: Imre Tirczka)





Technical University in Zvolen

Faculty of Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Department of Landscape Planning and Creation

Course: Permaculture

By completing this course the students gain basic knowledge in permaculture design as an established, professional, exact and comprehensive approach to formation of human habitat, where the basic starting point is to try to minimize the space required to satisfy the basic human needs and improving the quality of natural, social and economic environment. Student also get knowledge regarding so-called “ecological footprint” to consider when introducing anthropogenic and natural elements, structures and systems (especially in housing and agriculture), to reduce their energy intensity, bring quality production and create visually appealing systems.

Emphasis is placed on the link between biological, ecological and technical disciplines. Subject introduce listeners the opportunity for “clean” and modern applications of their knowledge in a particular field and deepen their knowledge of environmental disciplines exploring other relationships between organisms and environment linked with human activity. Practical part of teaching lies mainly in implementing specific actions arising from student’s proposals  based on principles and proven methods of permaculture design.

Subject includes both theoretical and practical parts. The theoretical part includes specific background and concepts of a subject, explains the goals and ethics of permaculture design, but mainly deals with the principles and procedures of it implementation. The practical part consists of design and implementation. Students work on their own permaculture design projects. In particular they analyze primary, secondary and tertiary landscape structures and capabilities of users, functional differentiation and selection of structures, landscaping and design of energy systems, design and location of components and structures. Students publicly present their design projects. Later students with support of educators choose a The feasible number of presented elements to implement in particular project. The final part is the evaluation of theoretical knowledge, joint evaluation of the application of the design principles in specific proposals, and feedback between students and teachers.



Open International University of Human Development “Ukraine”

Course: Ecology and Environmental Ethics

The course is designed to teach the basics of ecology and environmental ethics as the theory of sustainable development, and principles of permaculture - as a practice of sustainable development. It teaches the basic principles of ecology and sustainable development and shows that permaculture is a practice of sustainable development. The three ethical principles of permaculture are considered to be the same for ecology and environmental ethics.

After the course students will know:

- the basic laws of ecology, environmental ethics and permaculture;

- the basic principles of the design and functioning of social systems;

- Principles of designing sustainable artificial ecosystems.

As a result of studying the course students must be able to:

- apply the basic laws of ecology, environmental ethics and permaculture in their professional activity;

- interact with social structures, residents and local authorities:

- build ecosystems and maintain their productivity at the optimal level;

- provide consultations and practical assistance in permaculture design.

Academic education provides in-depth knowledge of the basic laws of nature, society, ecology, which creates a background and opportunities for a lifelong self education, helps solving complex problems and situations, creates conditions for an independent scientific and philosophical investigations. Whereas vocational education provides practical skills in carrying out routine activities in a stable environments, without a scientific component. The most advanced form of education lies in combination of theory with practice from a wide variety of sources and regions.

The holistic approach is the basic, the program considers the set of elements: Nature - Human - Settlement - Agriculture as a component of a single biospheric ecosystem, where a Human is an equal part of it, and human activity should account for the need of Nature. The principle of feedback is fundamental in all interactions. All modern academic education systems in Ukraine solve only certain issues of environmental problems or teach methods of combating Nature.

(source: Valentyna Movchan)


Common features and importance

Teaching methods

The used teaching techniques during permaculture-related academic courses:

  • mind map,
  • active listening,
  • worksheet “Little Farm”,
  • active listening of movies,  
  • case studies, brainstorming, and business games in the minigroups (5-7 people) with rotating roles,
  • performances during seminars.

Due to the time constraints and formal requirements there is not always fully possible to apply alternative teaching methods in the academic education, so one has to consider how to make a compromise between the amount of knowledge that has been taught and interaction within the group. Normally students visit an established permaculture projects and design course projects, usually in mini groups or individually.

Career perspectives

For the majority of surveyed programs if was reported that they help students to acquire a holistic approach, especially improve their better problem solving capacity. As environmental sustainability becomes more and more important, there will be a bigger need for experts with the integrated knowledge and skills. Teachers report that such programs give more self-confidence and better capacity for students to establish their own farms. The education programs try to link students with potential employers generally via the internship programs.

Additional education benefits

Students acquire multiple sustainable knowledge and skills for their everyday life, such us sustainable food production, soil and water management, energy and resource saving, recycling, transition governance, holistic thinking and ethical decision making, and self-sufficiency. Some programs specifically contribute to equity and accounts for social integration of disabled, disadvantaged persons and minorities by putting accents on social farming and food sovereignty, organizing inclusive environments and paying special attention to handicapped students and garden therapy. Sometimes students implement projects for their home university and local community, e.g. community / campus gardens and composters, providing food to homeless, creating wildlife habitats.


Sometimes the courses are too expensive and lengthy for farmers, with the limited possibility for field practice when organized outside of the growing season. Since organic farming is quite a new trend in the Central and Eastern Europe, it might be difficult to fill the courses with few pioneers and leaders who are ready to explore this opportunity (yet the interest in this field is constantly growing). When courses are optional, it might be also difficult for students to fit them in their timetable, and this also requires extra efforts from teachers to motivate prospective students.

Often courses are offered on a payed base due to the lack of financial support from the state. Sometimes it is hard to find qualified teachers for the range of disciplines offered within the educational program. Course accreditation can also be hard, especially for the practical part of education, with the tendency to more strict future standards in some countries. This procedure may be easier for optional courses. Still the term ‘permaculture’ is not widely recognized by academia and thus is often lacking in the course title.



Permaculture principles 'Integrate rather than Segregate' and 'Use and Value Diversity' suggest the pathway for the best learning practices. In order to create the best educational scheme, it would be the best to combine the academic and practical knowledge. It means inviting university teachers to short term courses which are organised by non government or private institutions. On the other hand it is important to create conditions for students to grow as farmers and designers. Thus,  the most desirable goal would be to perceive permaculture education as a diverse and harmonic process.

In Visegrad countries and Ukraine, there are several universities with permaculture courses. Usually they are optional and based on permaculture principles and ethics.