EUA is dedicated to international cooperation. Likewise, universities in Europe and around the world are crucial to global sustainable development. Therefore, it is natural that the Association is an active part of the worldwide agenda for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Universities contribute to the goals through research and education in a wide array of disciplines that can potentially contribute to a better future. In a complex and developed context like Europe, it is essential that the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals rests on knowledge, new research, innovation and citizens who are empowered by critical thinking. The Sustainable Development Goals clearly need strong societal actors, like universities, to ensure their success.
To further the understanding of the broad role of universities in society, EUA was invited to join the European Commission’s Multi-Stakeholder Platform on the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also a member of the GUNi Group of Experts in SDGs and Higher Education.
In particular, EUA is working on the following Sustainable Development Goals in the context of its policy and project work:
Education is crucial for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals and is a goal in and of itself. EUA works towards “Goal #4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning” by facilitating debates and knowledge-sharing on how to best provide for Europe’s students and lifelong learners. Discussions cover opening flexible learning paths for people in the workforce, as well as upgrading and reorienting skills and careers in response to rapidly changing societal needs.
EUA conducts this work primarily through its activities in learning and teaching, quality assurance and the European Forum for Enhanced Collaboration in Teaching (EFFECT) project.
Sustainable development is dependent on knowledge, as is “Goal #9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.” Universities provide deep insight into human society and the world around us. They also work intensively with businesses and civil society to create new knowledge and new ways of applying it. EUA promotes this by highlighting the role of universities as providers of that new knowledge and as vital partners throughout society - in particular in ensuring that research is open to all.
EUA connects universities across Europe to tackle the energy challenge through research, education and innovation. This is crucial to achieving “Goal #7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” In this context, EUA supports higher education institutions in the development of their institutional strategies and approaches to energy education, research and training.
The EUA Energy & Environment Platform (EUA-EPUE) is at the centre of this work. It aims to facilitate the full participation of European universities in energy- and environment-related EU programmes and to achieve the creation of the Energy Union and a sustainable energy future for Europe.
Sustainable development can only be achieved if discrimination is eradicated and all are empowered to take part in society independent of gender, ethnic origin or socio-economic and cultural background. Universities have an important role in this regard and social mobility and inclusiveness have become strategic questions in higher education. EUA is working to ensure that universities across Europe have a platform to share their approaches and strategies. This is key to “Goal #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” as well as to “Goal #10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.”
EUA’s conducts this work through its diversity and inclusion efforts, as well as the “Higher Education Supporting Refugees in Europe” (inHERE) project and the “Refugees Welcome Map”. EUA is also active in monitoring gender equality, especially in university leadership.
Universities are closely connected to their regions, and they play a crucial role in education, innovation, culture and civic life in their local communities. This is very important to “Goal #11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”
EUA supports this role through its work on innovation, in particular regional “smart specialisation” and innovation ecosystems. Its work is highly-informed by the EUA Expert Group on Smart Specialisation.
In order to fulfil their missions, universities need to have an enabling legal framework to make them strong institutions, particularly institutional autonomy and sufficient funding. This is strongly linked to “Goal #16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.”
EUA active in monitoring and shaping European trends in university autonomy and governance as well as in university funding. In particular, its University Autonomy Scorecard and Public Funding Observatory are unique and instrumental barometers in the field.
European universities are part of the larger family of universities around the world, and EUA actively promotes dialogue on five continents, working for an inclusive global higher education and research community. This is very relevant to “Goal #17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.”
EUA Strategic Plan
The need for strong universities has never been greater in addressing societal challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, resource scarcity, ageing populations, migration and managing artificial intelligence are among the many examples of areas where universities have a major impact.
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