Global Priorities, Educated Solutions:
The Role of Academia in Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals 


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Welcome to Global Priorities, Educated Solutions: The Role of Academia in Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals.  The purpose of this web-based publication is to highlight the role that higher education institutions (HEIs) can play in advancing progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to provide pathways for this work. At their core, the SDGs represent the pressing global challenges of today. Achieving the 17 aspirations of the SDGs will require coordinated and collective effort, particularly since elements of select goals rely on or contradict others or may not have clear and immediate solutions. Through the knowledge sector, HEIs can inform progress on meeting the goals through research, teaching, innovation, operations, service, and partnerships. This publication is organized around five complementary themes:

  • Scholarship for solutions: innovation and experiential teaching and research in the context of the SDGs.
  • Walking the talk: how campuses can lead by example of operational excellence and use the campus as a test bed for innovation.
  • Next generation innovation: the role of students in advancing world-changing ideas.
  • Service for society: universities as thought-leaders and collaborative partners in addressing global challenges.
  • Response and resilience: how HEIs can provide structure for resilience on campus and in their broader communities and respond to imperative challenges

The online nature of this publication allows it to be easily updated, distributed, and translated. Along these lines, the fifth chapter Response and Resilience was written in summer 2020 to gather and reflect on the ongoing learnings and emerging solutions from the unprecedented challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic as well as other social and environmental crises.

Each chapter includes:

  • an introduction,
  • an overview of opportunities,
  • examples of hurdles and solutions,
  • a set of thematic quick tips,
  • suggestions for further reading,
  • and a set of case studies.

Beyond the original content, it is intended to be a broadly-usable resource, so there is a section of cultivated resources beyond the scope of the publication.

We recommend reading the introduction first, as it provides foundational knowledge about the SDGs and how the authors view the role of HEIs. After that, please feel free to explore it as you would any other academically-driven publication. You can advance to the introduction, or the next chapter, by clicking on the button at the bottom of each page.

This publication is a product of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). Established in 2006, IARU is a network of 11 international research-intensive universities from nine countries across the globe that share similar values, a global vision, and a commitment to educating future world leaders. Central to these values is the importance of academic diversity and international collaboration as reflected in IARU’s principles. Sustainability representatives from these universities have been sharing ideas, hosting student exchanges, and collaborating on projects and events since 2009. For more about this group, please see the IARU Sustainability Initiative.

The IARU Members are the Australian National University, ETH Zürich, National University of Singapore, Peking University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Cambridge, University of Cape Town, University of Copenhagen, University of Oxford, the University of Tokyo, and Yale University.


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