European Aspects of GIS

With the increasing integration of society and economy in the European Union, purely regional or national approaches often make no sense, a wider view is required. The EuroGIS module provides a fundamental overview of issues of GI in Europe. Key information on how Europe works and which organisations and institutions are relevant on the EU level is provided. European datasets and projects are analysed, and initiatives such as Galileo and GMES are assessed. Some important policy developments related to GI are explored, and strategies to make geodata available at the European level, such as INSPIRE and SEIS, are addressed.

03 February 2020

European Aspects of GIS – Registration

February 3, 2020 - April 27, 2020
22 June 2020

European Aspects of GIS – Registration

June 22, 2020 - September 14, 2020
12 October 2020

European Aspects of GIS – Registration

October 12, 2020 - January 4, 2021

3 months



The module is free of charge for UNIGIS students working to meet their elective subject requirements. Included are:

  • all related study materials
  • supervision and assessment
  • module accreditation according to the curriculum

ClubUNIGIS members can register at a price of € 300,-. Included are:

  • all related study materials
  • supervision and assessment
  • course certificate upon completion of the module

  • Introduction – The European Dimension of GI
  • INSPIRE in a nutshell
  • Organizations and Institutions
  • Crossing Borders
  • Spatial Reference Systems
  • Remote Sensing
  • Galileo – European satellite navigation system
  • European Datasets
  • Searching through European data
  • Regional SDIs in Europe
  • European content projects
  • Global Monitoring for Environment and Security
  • Legal Issues and Policies
  • Conclusions

Good command of English.

We would like to inform you that this is an exclusively english language module, hence any kind of communication with the module instructor should be in English. The module is delivered in form of an instructed self-study that is based on explorative learning process. A discussion forum is maintained in Blackboard in order to support efficient module instruction. You are requested to submit all your questions related to this module to this forum only. The instructor will check all incoming comments on a regular basis. He will answer your questions or provide you with pointers for solving your problems. Theoretical concepts are complemented with practice oriented examples and demonstrated with help of multimedia elements. A discussion forum is used for communication among students and the instructor. Upon completion of the module students are requested to evaluate the module, which is a part of our quality assurance policy and practice.

No special  GI-Software required

Instructor assessment is the part of a course that reflects student’s achievements in this module and is conducted through assessing module assignments. It counts towards the academic qualification. Exercises are designed to enforce students’ knowledge and skills whereas quizzes provide feedback to a student based on availability of correct answers. These should be completed to allow students to assess their own progress and are not included in the module assessment. The assessment is based on your completed assignments. They must be submitted in written format (.PDF) to the dropbox within the required time period.

If assignments are handed in late, the instructor is not obligated to grade them. It will be listed as such on your transcript.

Lesson 1 – Intro – The European Dimension of GI
This lesson provides you with an insight into the European Dimension of GI. Using a practical example, we see in which cases a purely regional/national approach to tackle problems makes no sense, and why a wider view is required. We first check the multiple dimensions of the terms “Europe” and “European”, and provide background information on how Europe works, taking into account some of the key facts and challenges that characterise the decision-making processes at the European Union (EU) level. Then we explore some of the policy developments related to GI and address strategies to make geodata available at the European level, such as INSPIRE and SEIS.

Lesson 2 – INSPIRE in a nutshell
The INSPIRE directive issued by the European Commission in 2007 is one of the key elements of geoinformation in Europe. The lesson gives an initial overview of INSPIRE. Starting with a description of the vision behind INSPIRE, the basic documents are introduced. The lesson covers both the main goals and the implementation mechanisms that are defined within the directive. As the impact of the directive on national legislations is highly important, this aspect is treated as well. The content of this lesson is supplemented by the lessons on INSPIRE-SDI and Regional SDIs within the EuroGIS module.

Lesson 3 – European Organisations and Institutions
This lesson focuses on the main institutional and organisational components that deal with and are responsible for GI in Europe. We will start with a presentation of some types and categories of organisations within Europe and a short overview of the key GI players in Europe. In several lesson items we go into more detail with respect to some institutions playing an especially important role in the public and private sectors as well as both national and pan-European GI associations. In addition we provide links to some major organisations, institutions and businesses, and invite you to explore their contributions to the GI economy in Europe by visiting their websites.

Lesson 4 – Crossing Borders
Historically seen individual countries and organisations have always created their own cartographic datasets, with their own standards in terms of format and projection systems, mostly with only sparse or incomplete metadata. With the increasing integration of the European Union and the need for cross border crisis management, this kind of data also needs to be integrated.

Lesson 5 – Spatial Reference Systems
For centuries national reference systems have been sufficient for tackling the problems in the field of mapping and surveying. National and regional reference systems were based on national requirements and capabilities, using optimal ellipsoids for the national situation and national systems of well-defined fixed points. The increasing integration of life in Europe at all levels (economic, social, administrative, …) has made common standards necessary; this is true also for spatial reference systems. This lesson gives an overview of the European standards in this field, concerning both the reference system and the European standard projections based on this system.

Lesson 6 – Remote Sensing
In this lesson we will get an overview of the players in Earth Observation at the European level and will have a look at their activities and at the European plans in this field in the near future.

Lesson 7 – The European satellite navigation system – Galileo
With the increasing economic integration of our world, Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) have become a highly important component of our information and telecommunication environment. The U.S. system GPS and the Russian system GLONASS are the GNSS currently working. Due to the important economic and political impact of these systems, Europe has decided to develop Galileo, the European satellite navigation system. Galileo and GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) are the two flagship European programmes with respect to geo-information. This lesson starts with an overview of the general principle of satellite navigation and existing systems, and continues with the structure of Galileo, its applications and current status. In addition to that you will learn about EGNOS,  the European satellite based augmentation system for GNSS.

Lesson 8 – European Datasets 
Geographic Information is critical to many commercial sectors, to all governmental agencies, and to a growing number of applications used by all citizens. Decision-making at the European level requires accessible, compatible, useable and relevant geographic information. On the commercial side, the lack of data, at appropriate level and in appropriate formats, has been a significant barrier to more rapid growth of the European GI market place.

Lesson 9 – Searching through european data
Searching data that are relevant for a specific purpose or application is often a tedious task; on the other hand geographic information is of no use if it cannot be found. So, where can one find information about who has what geodata in Europe, what form is it in, and where and how to get access to it? The first answer to this question can be found in data catalogues, providing hopefully timely and accurate information regarding GI and other data. These catalogues are now mostly available online. Due to the continuous development in this area, two more steps can be identified: geoportals (also known as data clearing houses) that allow searching more data catalogues via a single user interface; and, most recently, spatial data infrastructures that provide not only data search functionalities but also standardised metadata and data shops. In this lesson you learn about aspects that are important in the context of geodata search illustrated by examples of geodata portals in Europe.

Lesson 10 – INSPIRE and SDI
In lesson “INSPIRE in a Nutshell” we had a look at the INSPIRE initiative and the related EU directive. As the acronym INSPIRE contains already the terms infrastructure, spatial, and information, here we study the relation between INSPIRE and SDIs, specifically with respect to a European Spatial Data Infrastructure (ESDI). We assess how the components of an SDIare reflected in the structure and process of INSPIRE. Finally, we look beyond “now” and we try to analyse where the current developments will lead us to, not only in Europe but at global level as well.

Lesson 11 – Regional SDIs in Europe
In this lesson you review the experiences of some regional and national spatial information strategies in Europe. For each case, different aspects need to be assessed: the organisation in charge of coordinating the SDI, the mechanism for accessing the SDI, the types of available spatial data and the metadata standard adopted. You are also expected to explore their on-line metadata services and search for spatial data. Some documents help evaluating these regional and national initiatives in comparative terms.

Lesson 12 – European content projects
When we talk about European Data in other lessons, the question arises ‘where these data come from’? This question is important as the compilation of high-quality data that cover the area of Europe, are available in a degree of detail making them useful in an operational context, and are relevant at the European level. This usually requires significant efforts with respect to labour and finances. Furthermore other datasets are supporting tasks of the European Commission rather than having a commercial potential. Therefore many of the existing European datasets have their origin in projects that at least are partly funded by the European Union within one of the EU programmes. In this lesson we get an idea about the obstacles hampering the process from the idea to the realisation of a European dataset and we have a look at some examples of European content projects that in many cases are the basis for these datasets.

Lesson 13 – Global Monitoring for Environment and Security
This lesson gives  an overview of the background of the GMES initative as well as of its components and examples of services developed within this framework.

Lesson 14 – Legal Issues and Policies
With its 27 member states the European Union is a very complex political and social construction that is based on a large number of legal documents such as treaties, directives, regulations and communications. The effective laws applicable in daily life are formulated in the national legislations, taking the EU regulations into account. Moreover, in addition to the legal documents at the European level, EU policies define a framework for activities in various fields. In the context of GI, the situation is complicated as relevant regulations are spread over a number of policy and legal documents. In this lesson we will see which documents are the most important European documents for GI, always keeping in mind that all regulations at the EU level are (have to be) expressed in national laws.

Lesson 15 – Conclusion
During our tour through the European GI we encountered a variety of different aspects starting from the question, what “Europe” means. This lesson provides a wrap-up of the key facts found in the various lessons, giving a overview of their contents. The goal of this lesson is to help you discover the inter-linkages between the partly quite diverse contents of the module. Moreover, based on the contents of the module, some important lines of development expected in the nearer future are identified, including potentially problematic developments towards a “transparent society” in Europe.