University transformations for transdisciplinarity and the SDGs

Organizer: Tobias Buser
Format: Online, Evening

In this session, we will explore how universities and higher education institutions need to transform in order to respond to the enormous sustainable development challenges facing the world today. Universities have a critical role in helping to implement the societal transformations that are needed to achieve sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular through their research and teaching. There is growing recognition that new kinds of research and teaching are needed in order to address the complexity of the challenges, and that we need to equip both our staff and our graduates – the professionals and researchers of the future – with the capacities required to contribute to creating the scale of transformations required. In particular, we need to scale up transdisciplinary approaches that engage directly with real-world problems, across disciplines and with diverse stakeholders. These new approaches are difficult to implement within traditional university structures and processes. Our claim is that our universities need to transform themselves in order to fulfil their role in greater societal transformations. Universities are highly diverse institutions and operate in many different contexts. These transformations will necessarily have diverse starting points, diverse end points, and many paths they could follow. In this session, we aim to lead an inspiring and encouraging discussion on transformation pathways of universities. Through overview presentations, compelling case studies, and ample time for broader discussion, we will explore the case for transformation and the diverse paths universities can take. We invite voices of universities and other societal actors to share and discuss their paths and perspectives. Our hope is to inspire our colleagues to find gems that resonate with their situations, and to begin to identify how to enact change in their realms, and to strengthen regional as well as global networks supporting university transformations.

Themes: Integrated Action for the SDGs