Four women smile and hold an orange poster with the title gender equality

University leaders convene at Wilton Park to drive SDG agenda forward

Published on 29 January 2020

The power of higher education to solve global challenges was on display this week, as university leaders came together at Wilton Park to showcase how universities are integral to solving each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With speakers drawn from across the ACU’s membership network, conversations centred on the following core themes:

  • How higher education is contributing to the SDGs through teaching, research and innovation
  • Why partnerships are critical for meeting the SDGs
  • Creating globally engaged citizens
  • The importance of advocacy – both within and beyond the sector

Hosted by – and delivered in partnership with – Wilton Park, this three-day dialogue brought together university leaders, policymakers, government officials and funders from across the globe to share best practice and devise concrete actions to continue to drive the SDG agenda forward.

Representatives from ACU member universities demonstrated how they are leading the way over the course of this three-day conference, with Dr Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, commenting: ‘Our mission at the ACU is to build a better world through higher education. I’m pleased to be working in partnership with other international associations and sector bodies – including the AUF, IAU, and UNSDSN – to amplify this message and ensure we have a strong higher education sector globally.

‘We thank Wilton Park for hosting this critical dialogue and look forward to taking the outcomes of these discussions forward with our partners and through our policy networks’.

The conference was followed by the inaugural meeting of the ACU’s new Higher Education and SDGs Network, with university leaders from across the ACU’s membership coming together to set a working agenda for the network, focusing on the following core thematic areas:

  • Engagement and Impact
  • Partnerships
  • Research
  • Sustainable Operations
  • Teaching and learning

The network is chaired and championed by Professor Dhanjay Jhurry, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mauritius and ACU Council member, who said: ‘I’m delighted to be leading the ACU’s new Higher Education and the SDGs network, which will bring together academics from across the ACU’s membership network to galvanise action and ensure the work universities are already actively engaged in is recognised at the highest levels and continues to be included in international policy dialogues.’

Newcastle University in the UK is also playing a leading role in the network by chairing the Europe Hub – and thanks to extensive institutional expertise in supporting Voluntary National Reviews (VNR), the university is producing a toolkit to support other ACU member universities to actively support this critical mechanism of the SDG process. We're proud to be working alongside The University of Manchester, University of Sussex, Coventry University and University of Brighton on the Europe hub. Newcastle University will be leading the network. 

Join the Higher Education and the SDGs network

More information

The Higher Education and SDGs network officially launched at last year’s UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). The ACU is committed to advocating for the role higher education plays in achieving the SDGs. Find out more:

For all media enquiries, please email