On Wednesday, 18 October 2023, the ACU and University College London hosted the International Forum on Higher Education and the Climate Crisis, a celebratory event showcasing and discussing the findings of the four-year Global Challenges Research Fund project Climate-U.
Higher education has a crucial role to play in responding to the climate crisis, not only through carrying out research, but also through teaching, community engagement and public awareness.
Together with its members and partners, the ACU set out to foster a dynamic exchange of ideas, research findings and interdisciplinary perspectives from prominent speakers and decision makers in climate and education.
In total, 15 higher education institutions in Brazil, Fiji, Kenya, India, Indonesia, and Tanzania developed participatory action research (PAR) that brought together local communities with universities to address climate change.
Over 100 international guests attended the event, among them representatives from the regional research teams. The keynote address was delivered by The Honourable Aseri Radrodro, Minister of Education, Fiji, who emphasised that “teaching, learning and researching climate change has to be an integral part of the curriculum at all levels”. He added that universities are key collaborators in this respect in Fiji, a notion which was repeated time and again during the day.
During an international panel of Vice Chancellors entitled University leadership for climate action: an international dialogue panellists discussed how Vice Chancellors are supporting and encouraging climate action in their institutions and which obstacles they are facing.
ACU Secretary General and Chief Executive Professor Colin Riordan CBE took the opportunity to host a lunch with Minister Radrodro, Professor David Gichoya (Vice Chancellor of Kenya Methodist University), Professor Emmanuel Zagury Tourinho (Vice Chancellor of Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil), Oyewole Olusola Bandele (Secretary General of the Association of African Universities), Professor Wendy Thomson CBE (Vice Chancellor of the University of London, UK and Vice-Chair of the ACU Council); Professor Paul K. Wainaina (Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University, Kenya), and Tracey Yani Harjatanaya (Vice Chancellor of Universitas Satya Terra Bhinneka, Indonesia), to discuss climate change related priorities.
Six breakout sessions focused on specific themes: Under the ‘Institutional change for climate action’ headline attendees discussed ‘Climate learning’, ‘Community engagement’, and ‘Collaborating internationally’. In the afternoon the focus was on ‘Climate justice in practice’, specifically ‘Indigenous knowledges’, ‘Students as changemakers’ and ‘Engaging non-academic stakeholders’.
Two of these sessions were facilitated by members of this year’s Commonwealth Futures Climate Research Cohort, who shared their own unique perspectives. Nine Commonwealth scholars were also able to attend the event and shared their takeaways from the day in the concluding plenary discussion.
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