GLOBAL: Vice-chancellors sign sustainability agreement

Vice-chancellors and presidents from Universitas 21, the international network of 21 research-intensive universities in 14 countries, on Friday signed a statement on sustainability at their annual meeting held in Seoul, South Korea. The statement emphasises the important role universities play in facing the challenges of climate change, the decline of biodiversity, the need for energy, food and water security, and of economic sustainability and of human health.

The statement is one part of the network's Year of Sustainability programme. Universities in the network have committed themselves to ensuring a sustainable future:

* through research, teaching, community partnerships and demonstrable actions, to advance timely solutions to ecological, societal and economic problems;
* through engagement with civil society, industry and government, to accelerate these solutions beyond the campus, and
* by working together collaboratively and cooperatively, to achieve more than is possible by working alone.

Under the agreement, each university will develop, publish and monitor targets, share the results with the others, undertake research aimed at a sustainable future, establish the university campus as a living laboratory for such a future, emphasise citizenship and engagement to promote faculty, staff, and student volunteers, and build capacity through cross-network collaboration and work.

"The network as a whole recognises the importance of this commitment and sees it as a necessary step in addressing the increasingly relevant issue of sustainability and ways in which universities can address it both internally and externally," the group said in a release after the meeting.

Fourteen of the university leaders also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a joint PhD programme to enable doctoral students to undertake joint degrees. The universities believe this will enhance the students' international research and employment opportunities.

Unlike other joint schemes, the MoU provides a framework for universities to create tailor-made programmes for each student, taking individual research into account and enabling collaboration among the network's universities.

Those involved in the scheme are the universities of Auckland, Birmingham, British Columbia, Delhi, Dublin (University College), Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Korea, McGill, Melbourne, Nottingham, Queensland and Virginia.

Speaking at the launch of the programme, Professor John Casteen, President of the University of Virginia and Chair of the Universitas 21 network, said "The signing of this MoU marks a key development in the way U21 universities are approaching study and research. Not only does this distinguish us from the other programmes already in existence, by being focused clearly on the needs of the individual students but it sets a new benchmark for international collaboration at PhD level and a trend I believe is one which should be followed by other major networks and consortia."

Statement on sustainability is a very timely and actual step not only in educational but also in human development. More and more nowadays, the role of universities in sustainable development increases. We consider now the university as a centre of social, cultural, economical life, responsible for deciding problems of climate change, for economic sustainability and of human recourses. I see the future of mankind in such consortia.

Liudmila Dokashenko (PhD in Economics, Associate Professor)