Much progress has been made in the field of sustainable development all over the world since the publication of “Our Common Future” in 1987, and since the Summits held in Rio (1992 and 2012).
The field of sustainable development as a whole, and sustainable development research in particular, has evolved substantially over the past twenty-five years. The end of the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) has marked the start of a new era, titled “Sustainability 2.0”. At a time when the UN is stepping efforts towards pursuing the “Sustainable Development Goals”, sound research on sustainable development is required more than ever before.
The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme (IUSDRP) aims to establish a platform for member universities to undertake more research on matters related to sustainable development, according to an agreed work plan and agenda.
The specific aims of the IUSDRP are to:
One of the gaps still seen, is in respect of the abilities of universities to perform high quality sustainability research. Therefore, it is believed that a set-up such as the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme, will provide a contribution towards the efforts of member universities to consolidate their initiatives in the field of sustainable development in many ways. For instance:
The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will consolidate and further develop the available know-how and profile on sustainable development among its member universities across the world, helping them to take full advantage of the many possibilities for institutional consolidation and individual career development which sustainability research offers.
A working programme (2015-2020) for the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme has been prepared and is now under implementation. It will be coordinated by Manchester Metropolitan University (UK), but each member university is autonomous in respect of their individual activities, funding and operations.
The main aim of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme is to establish a platform, on which member universities may undertake more research on matters related to sustain-able development, according to an agreed work plan and agenda.
The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will ensure that energetic, committed experts at member universities have a sound basis upon which they can attract and undertake research projects, train PhD students, publish more in indexed journals, and organize high caliber events, working more closely with their peers (a clear requirement in the sustainable development research community) and hence strengthening their personal and institutional profiles.
In addition, the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will strive to develop the ability to leverage organizational resources and maximize the benefits research projects may bring to member universities. The specific aims of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme are to:
Operationally, the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will develop projects which may be submitted for funding to national and international agencies and funding bodies. It will also provide a key support in the promotion of cooperation in the field of sustainable development between the member universities, in a way never seen before.
The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme focuses on the subject matter of sustainable development, as a cross-cutting issue, and on specific topics which are mainstream in the international sustainability research agenda. The list of topics includes (but is not limited to):
Other topics may be added to the list, according to the expertise brought by the member universities and interested colleagues.
Apart from the fact that joining a programme of such high calibre will greatly enhance the profile of member universities, some other key factors which speak for joining the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme are as follows:
At present, the global expenditure in respect of sustainable development research (including the areas outlined in the item “themes”) are estimated at being about USD 1 billion per year. The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will help to unlock substantial funding possibilities for integrated projects on sustainability issues, where, for instance, universities and governments, or universities and industry may work together.
The founding organizations of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme are Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) where its Secretariat is based, and the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany). A Memorandum of Understanding is signed with Partner universities (via a Letter of Commitment), in order to formalize their involvement with the programme. Partner universities may then be able to refer to themselves as members of IUSDRP, and can take part in all its activities, organize or co-organize events and coordinate or be partners in IUSDRP-led projects.
The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will group researchers at partner universities with an interest in sustainable development research, and its ramifications. The aim is to reinforce their profile and allow them to take more advantage of the many benefits this topic offers.
The work of the programme will be overseen by an International Advisory Board, composed by some of the world´s leading experts on sustainability, who will provide advice, guidance and support the implementation of the programme´s activities.
The operational components of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme involve five inter-related core tasks:
A flagship of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will be the “World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities” (WSSDU) series, which is the leading event in the field. Organised bi-annually, WSSDU congregates the leading organisations and experts on sustainability in higher education, proving a unique opportunity for information exchange, networking and for the documentation of project work and dissemination of results from research projects. This is complemented by the “World Sustainable Development Teach-In Days” (also a bi-annual event), the use of the World Sustainability Series (published by Springer, one of the world´s top 5 scientific publishers) to produce high caliber books, and the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, the world´s leading academic journal in the field.
Thanks to its integrative and truly international approach, the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will achieve effective mobilization of staff and resources, and use strategic events to attract the attention of scientists, policy-makers, community members and media representatives. Ultimately, it will broad awareness about the partner universities, and of their sustainable development research capabilities.
November 2015: Official Launching
November – December 2015: Joining of founding member universities
January-July 2016: Joining of member universities
September 2016: World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities (WSSD-U-2016) (United States)
October 2016: Yearly start of the inter-university doctoral programme on environment and sustainable development
World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day
World Symposium on Lifelong Learning and Sustainable Development (Malta)
April 2017: World Symposium on Sustainability Science and Research (UK)
September 2018: World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities (WSSD-U-2018) (Malaysia)
October 2018: Yearly start of the inter-university doctoral programme on environment and sustainable development
March 2019: World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day
September 2020: World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities (WSSD-U-2020)
October 2020: Yearly start of the inter-university doctoral programme on environment and sustainable development
The submission of project bids will be continuously pursued, and will be undertaken as soon as relevant calls for projects are issued by national and international funding bodies.
Membership to IUSDRP is by invitation only, and is free of charges. If you feel your institution shares the philosophy, goals and research interests of IUSDRP, then please contact the Chairperson to discuss a possible membership.
Walter Leal (BSc, PhD, DSc, DPhil, DEd, DLitt, FSB, FRGS, FLS)
Professor of Environment and Technology
School of Science and the Environment
Manchester Metropolitan University
Valeria Ruiz Vargas
Education for Sustainable Development Co-ordinator
Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching -Environment Team
1st Floor, All Saints Building
Manchester M15 6BH