Cross-sectoral Partnerships in Higher Education Highlighted at 9th World Sustainability Forum

The 9th World Sustainability Forum took place virtually from 13-15 September, 2021, in which UNU-IAS presented in a session organised by IAU, ‘Higher Education and Research – How universities around the world engage with Sustainability and build partnerships for the SDGs’. This session focused on higher education’s role for sustainable development, presenting the IAU’s work on its strategic priority of HESD (Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development), how it fosters this around the world, and how collaboration between universities and HEIs can be increased.

As an IAU partner organisation representative, Dr Jonghwi Park, Academic Programme Officer and Head of Innovation and Education at UNU-IAS, presented on examples of practice, specifically looking at partnerships within the Higher Education sector and across sectors. Her presentation, ‘Cross-sectoral Partnerships in Higher Education and Why We Need Them for Sustainable Development’ highlighted how essential these partnerships are for the higher education sector in working with local communities, and for translating research findings into local actions. 

Dr. Park shared a number of examples including those from the Global RCE Network, whereby 54% of the projects RCEs conducted during the GAP were led by local universities. These include RCE East Midlands’ work on a Carbon Literacy Training Programme, an interactive training programme from two local universities that builds capacity and fosters collaboration, involving students, local schools, the business sector, and local councils in the Leicester area in the UK. RCE Greater Eastern Uganda’s work (led by Busitema University) further illustrates the impact of such partnerships. Their project, informed by research, worked on preventing further deforestation via an awareness-raising programme for the local community and private sector. This case and other examples were featured in the UNU-IAS publication released earlier this year, ‘Tackling Climate Action at the Local Level: Education for Sustainable Development Projects from the Global RCE Network‘.

Another network which is operated out of UNU-IAS, ProSPER.Net, an alliance of 50 universities in the Asia-Pacific region committed to the integration of ESD into post-graduate curricula, has produced a number of joint research projects among universities within the network. One current example is work on disaster risk reduction (DRR) education and the integration of the SDGs as a joint degree programme, a project among five universities in Asia. These universities are working together to conduct research to map out DRR interventions across the region and co-develop curriculum. 

Dr. Park also spoke about the increasing demands for higher education, and ensuring the system is inclusive and provides equal access for all. As one of the universities within ProSPER.Net, for UNU-IAS’ post-graduate degree programmes, UNU-IAS mobilises the private sector and development partners to provide scholarships to students from developing countries, in order to foster and support the growth of young leaders and researchers for sustainable development. As we move forward, an essential part of leaving no one behind will be ensuring education for all. In closing, Hilligje van’t Land, Secretary-General, IAU stressed the need to continue connecting in different ways in order to build bridges globally and to improve cooperation mechanisms together.

A video of the session can be viewed here