2021 in focus: the power of higher education

Group Of University Staff Sit And Watch Presentation (1)

Universities make a vital contribution to society. Year after year, our diverse network of universities continues to demonstrate expertise, resilience, and creativity in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While the end of the year is an apt time to pause and reflect, it is also a moment to celebrate achievements, milestones, and learnings – of which are there have been many. A wealth of knowledge and expertise exists at universities across the world, and 2021 has seen this come to the fore in areas such as bridging the digital divide and spearheading critical solutions to tackle climate change, and more.

Here's a glimpse into some of the ways that member universities are building a better world through higher education. 

Climate action

Universities – and the people within them - are ideally placed to leverage local, national, and international networks to drive climate action.

Group of volunteers clean up beach
Beach Clean Event
Trans Continental Beach Clean Event
UWI Signed A Mou With The ACU And Government Of Antigua And Barbuda
The Universities of the West Indies contributed to an ACU COP26 high-level event with the University of Strathclyde
Dr Mannakkara from the University of Auckland was awarded an ACU Commonwealth Climate Resilience Challenge Grant
Dr Sandeeka Mannakkara is launching a project to highlight indigenous knowledge in relation to climate change adaptation
Dr Sandeeka Mannakkara, University Of Auckland

Virtual student mobility

Virtual experiences can engage many more students than could ever benefit from traditional travel-based opportunities.

ACU Summer School Student In Yellow T Shirt Smiles Infront Of Tree
Tata Institute of Social Sciences delivered an online summer school for 50 students
Organised in partnership with the ACU, the event explored urban disasters, risk and resilience.
The summer school overcame the physical barriers of COVID-19 through online events and breakout rooms
Male student looks up from laptop screen
Illustrated infographic of global urbanisation lecture
The University of Manchester is providing students with a platform to explore solutions to global challenges
The University of Manchester is supporting their students and QECS scholars with an online SDGs course
The University of Manchester's SDGs course content is shaped by the students taking part
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester said: By participating in this course, the scholars will develop a better understanding of the role they can in delivering on the SDGs
The University of Nicosia and Newcastle University delivered a virtual summer school on intercultural communication
The summer school left participants with an understanding of interculturality and transversal working skills
Yellow Quote

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Gender equity

Through expanding access to opportunities and spearheading awareness campaigns - higher education plays a critical role in advancing gender equity and equality.

Two Female Students Stand Holding A Banner For A Campaign Against Sexual Harrasment On Campus
The University Nigeria used an ACU Gender Grant to fund a campaign against sexual harassment
Two people sit in recording studio recording radio segment next to description of the University of Nigeria's anti-sexual harassment campaign
The University of Dhaka spearheaded a campaign to tackle sexual harassment
Martha Farrell Fellow circulated online and offline resources to spread awareness of sexual harassment on campus

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Bridging the digital divide 

While the rapid shift to online teaching laid bare the stark digital divide in higher education, universities are uniquely placed to promote digital inclusion.

Headshot of Sue Bennett next to description of Times Higher Education article on digital inclusion
Digital Divide
Makerere University PEBL
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Equitable partnerships

In a world where there are entrenched inequalities across so many aspects of life, it is essential for universities to be at the forefront of action and research that seeks to challenge and overcome these issues to build a more equal society for all.

UK African Partnerships Communique
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Equitable Partnerships

Find out more and get involved 

Stay connected

In case you missed it: ACU Secretary General Dr Joanna Newman reflected on the highlights, key learnings and opportunities in 2021 and beyond in a Facebook and LinkedIn live.

The above is a testament to the power of international collaboration and networks. With the ACU Ambassadors scheme nearly doubling in size this year, we look forward to staying connected and working closely with our member universities in 2022.