UK House Event

UK House Education Day 2022: Highlighting the Commonwealth universities improving global food security

Published on 08 August 2022

Through their research and expertise, universities play a vital role in addressing the most pressing global challenges of our time.

On Friday 29 July the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) hosted an afternoon panel at discussion at UK House titled ‘International collaboration for global challenges - translating university expertise into action’ to explore the pressing global challenge of food security.

Commonwealth leaders, policy-makers and scholars came together to discuss this issue and how their work supports the implementation of international frameworks such as the new Commonwealth Living Lands Charter.

Taking place during Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the ACU’s session was one in a series of events taking place as part of UK House Education Day, a platform for sharing best practices across a range of education and research initiatives and fostering opportunities for collaboration and partnership with the UK. Throughout the day, researchers, policymakers and investors also discussed how education, training and research can support sustainable growth across the Commonwealth.

Opening the ACU’s food security session, BBC journalist and food writer Dan Saladino spoke of the intersection between academia, policy making and journalism in identifying, understanding and finding solutions to global challenges.

Delegates next heard from Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who described the issue of food security as both a serious long-term challenge and an acute crisis. Baroness Scotland outlined how finding solutions to this challenge and implanting the Commonwealth Living Lands Charter demands collaboration between academia and policy, that ACU and global higher education community can help to facilitate. She also applauded the ACU’s LEAP4FNSSA Programme and proposal for a Living Lands Charter Fellowship Programme, describing it as a welcome step which can strengthen the conduits between policy makers and expertise.

The Commonwealth’s new Living Lands Charter was ratified at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda in June 2022. The ACU’s proposed Living Lands Charter Fellowship Programme is designed to strengthen the supply of evidence to decision-makers within the Living Lands Charter action groups who will be taking this work forward.

Also joining the event line-up was Prof Frans Swanepoel from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, who presented on the work of the LEAP4FNSSA Programme and how academic collaboration can contribute to solving food security.

Through ACU managed scholarship and international mobility schemes, the ACU is proud to be supporting the next generation of climate scientists and supporting action on food security. Delegates next heard a presentation from Urooj Ashraf, a first year PhD student in Agricultural Sciences at Cardiff University, UK and Commonwealth Scholar, who is undertaking vital research into food security.

To conclude the session, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, Dr Joanna Newman joined a panel discussion on what more can be done to harness the expertise of higher education to support action on food security alongside Prof Frans Swanepoel, Abhik Sen, Head of Innovation and Partnerships at the Commonwealth Secretariat and Sarah Chidgey, Head of International Education at the Department for International Trade, UK.

Among her remarks, Dr Newman highlighted how the Commonwealth can be a catalyst for change, and that through international collaboration and equitable partnerships, we can drive action of government commitments such as the Living Lands Charter.

The climate crisis undoubtedly requires urgent and collaborative action to mitigate the drastic decline of our land, oceans and environment. This event further highlighted how universities, through their research and expertise, play a vital role in addressing global challenges and can support governments and the industry to deliver climate action and resilience, and help manage sustainable use of scarce resources. University-led partnerships are key to translating research and expertise into action on the pressing global challenge of food security.

Completing the ACU’s contribution to UK House Education Day, Dr Joanna Newman then chaired a panel session on the UK’s International Higher Education strategy. The discussion included Professor Sir Steve Smith, UK International Education Champion, Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell, University of Birmingham and His Excellency Sarafa Tunji Isola, Nigerian High Commissioner. Key themes that emerged from the dialogue included the prevailing challenge of inequity in access to Higher education, as well as the role of international mobility in addressing and supporting research on global challenges. Dr Newman reminded that universities ‘are helping to realise healthier, greener, fairer societies, and find solutions to pressing global challenges’ through education, community engagement and research.

More information

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