Universities and other higher education institutions have a critical role in helping society achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through their research, learning and teaching, campus operations and leadership. One of the most important ways they can contribute to this is to support students and other learners within their sphere to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and mindsets to contribute to solving the complex sustainable development challenges our world faces.
Accelerating Education for the SDGs in Universities is a new guide from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) that aims to help universities, colleges, and tertiary and higher education institutions implement and mainstream this “Education for the SDGs” within their institutions.
The guide was prepared in collaboration with the SDSN Regional Network for Australia, New Zealand & Pacific, the Technical University of Madrid (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), and Monash University, and includes contributions from dozens of universities and higher education institutions around the world. It updates and expands on the Education section of the widely referenced 2017 publication, Getting Started with the SDGs in Universities.
The need to greatly expand society’s capacity to solve complex challenges has never been more important or more urgent, with just ten years remaining to the 2030 deadline of achieving the SDGs, the growing understanding of the urgency of addressing climate change, and now the added challenges of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout. This need is strongly recognized in SDG 4.7, which calls for ensuring that “all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development…”
As the providers of general, professional, and lifelong education to hundreds of millions of learners around the world, universities have a unique and critical role in meeting this need.
Universities have been providing some aspects of Education for the SDGs to some of their students through their traditional learning and teaching activities. However, there is a need to both scale up existing activities, as well as implement and mainstream new types of transformative learning activities, which employ interdisciplinarity, action-based learning, and multi-actor involvement, and which go beyond usual operations.
Mainstreaming Education for the SDGs can be difficult within existing university structures, and deeper transformations in how universities operate will be needed to ensure this happens fast enough and deep enough.
This guide aims to inspire universities to take action and support them through this process, regardless of their context, capacity or starting point. It does this by offering practical approaches and guidance, including the case for action, the different ways Education for the SDGs can be implemented in a university, the outline of a strategic implementation process, the roles of different stakeholders, how to overcome common barriers, and in-depth analysis of transformative examples. The guide is accompanied by a website, blogs.upm.es/education4sdg, with almost 50 examples of how universities around the world are already accelerating their implementation of Education for the SDGs.
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