Regional Perspectives on Higher Education and Sustainable Development: European higher education practices for transformative sustainability transitions

Activity: Talk or presentationGuest lecturesResearch

Clemens Mader - Panel participant

    Globally we face situations and developments that require immediate interventions although we recognize that the source of cause is our own behavior. We live in a world of transitions that depend on our individual and collective decision making in daily life as well through long term strategies. So to enable sustainable transitions, a range of competences (reflective, interdisciplinary understanding, creativity, empathy,…) and capabilities (educational access, social exchange, freedom to act,…) is required so each individual can take agency for sustainable development. Here is where higher education institutions at the interface of society, policy and economy play a crucial role. Through transdisciplinary research and education for sustainable development, universities exchange with society, policy and economy and enable transformation towards sustainability transitions.
    In Europe, a diversity of higher education initiatives on institutional, national, regional and global scales support transformative sustainability transitions. Especially during the past 10 years of the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development, ESD is more and more given higher priority at universities. From margin activities in the beginning where activities had a short term project character, we can recognize that ESD is becoming part of the culture and policy of institutions. At the same time we cannot generalize this trend for the whole of Europe. Whereas in some European ESD activities become more and more mainstreamed, some other countries, especially in the downturn of the economic crises (which is a paradox), lack or have even reduced their relevant initiatives.
    A recently launched European Union Project (University Educators for Sustainable Development, UE4SD), initiated by the COPERNICUS Alliance and the Rio+20 Higher Education Treaty circle of universities, is gathering more than 50 universities from 33 European countries (from all regions) to map and assess activities contributing to the development of competences for ESD among university educators. The project is actually showcasing lacks of ESD competence development in the European higher education landscape and as an outcome after three years UE4SD will offer an Academy for university educators to enable agency for transformative leadership within their institutions.
    Another study supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research is assessing higher education initiatives from Europe and globally that contribute to a transformation of the higher education sector towards sustainable development. Partners for this study are still welcome to join.


    International conference on Blending Higher Education and Traditional Knowledge for Sustainable Development - IAU 2014


    Iquitos, Peru, Peru

    Event: Conference