Partnerships for Progress: The Role of Universities in Achieving the SDGs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
The Importance of Universities in Achieving the SDGs
Partnerships between universities, governments, and communities are crucial for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). These partnerships can help to address the unique challenges and needs facing LMICs, and ensure that sustainable development efforts are tailored to the specific context of these countries. (PennGSE, 2023)
Challenges of Expanding Research and Academic Capacity in LMICs
In LMICs, universities often face the challenge of expanding research and academic capacity while maintaining equitable access. Partnerships with governments and communities can help to address this challenge by providing universities with the resources and support necessary to expand their capacity and reach. For example, government funding can support the development of research infrastructure, while partnerships with communities can provide universities with access to valuable local knowledge and perspectives. (Ronicle, 2022)
In addition to addressing capacity challenges, partnerships between universities, governments, and communities can also help to promote equitable access to education and research. In LMICs, many people lack access to quality education and research opportunities due to poverty, inequality, and other socio-economic barriers. Universities can work with governments and communities to design solutions that are responsive to these barriers and promote equitable access. For example, universities can partner with governments to provide financial aid to disadvantaged students or collaborate with communities to design outreach programs that bring educational opportunities to marginalized groups. (Ronicle, 2022)
Furthermore, universities in LMICs can also act as a bridge between different sectors, facilitating collaboration and cooperation towards the common goal of sustainable development. These partnerships can be a powerful force for change in LMICs, where the need for sustainable development is often greatest and resources are often scarce.
Deep dive: Change in Curriculum to facilitate SDGs
Incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the curriculum is crucial for preparing students to become global citizens who are aware of the challenges our world is facing and are equipped with the knowledge and skills to address them. However, in order to be effective, the curriculum must be designed in a way that optimally integrates the SDGs.
One way to do this is by incorporating the SDGs into existing courses and programs. For example, a course on environmental science can include a section on sustainable energy, which aligns with SDG 7, or a course on public health can include a section on reducing the spread of infectious diseases, which aligns with SDG 3. This approach allows students to learn about the SDGs in the context of their field of study and makes the material more relevant and engaging.
Another way to incorporate the SDGs into the curriculum is by creating new courses and programs that are specifically focused on the SDGs. For example, a university can offer a minor in sustainable development or a certificate program in sustainable business, which aligns with SDG 8, which will allow students to gain a deeper understanding of the SDGs and their impact on the world.
A third way to incorporate the SDGs into the curriculum is by integrating experiential learning opportunities such as internships, service-learning, and fieldwork. These opportunities allow students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world problems and to gain hands-on experience in addressing the SDGs. (Chang, 2020)
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) as a prime example
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) is a prime example of a university that is taking a proactive and leading role in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Like many universities in LMICs, USM faces the challenge of expanding research and academic capacity while maintaining equitable access. However, USM is addressing these challenges by fostering partnerships with governments and communities, which is key to achieving the SDGs in LMICs. (Teh, 2020)
One of the ways that USM is putting a focus on the SDGs is through its research. The university has a strong reputation for interdisciplinary research that brings together experts from different fields to tackle complex issues such as poverty, inequality, and climate change. This research is aligned with the SDGs and is aimed at finding sustainable solutions to the challenges facing our world. For example, researchers at USM are working on developing sustainable energy systems, and new treatments for diseases, which aligns with SDG 7 and SDG 3 respectively. (Teh, 2020)
In addition to its research, USM is also incorporating sustainable development education into its curriculums. By doing so, the university is preparing its students to become global citizens who are aware of the challenges facing our world and are equipped with the knowledge and skills to address them. This aligns with the idea of fostering a global impact mindset in students from a young age that was discussed in the previous article. (Teh, 2020)
Furthermore, USM is also engaging with the government and communities outside of the academic sphere. By working with local governments and non-governmental organizations, the university is able to translate its research into real-world solutions that can improve the lives of people in communities around Malaysia. This is in line with the idea of fostering sustainable partnerships with the government and communities that were discussed in the previous article. (Teh, 2020)
In conclusion, partnerships between universities, governments, and communities are especially important in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) for achieving the SDGs. They can help universities to address the challenges of expanding research and academic capacity while maintaining equitable access, promote equitable access to education and research, and design solutions that are responsive to the unique needs and challenges facing these groups. Universities can also act as a bridge between different sectors, facilitating collaboration and cooperation towards the common goal of sustainable development.
PennGSE. (2023, January 21). University World News. Retrieved from https://www.universityworldnews.com/page.php?page=UW_Main
Ronicle, J. (2022). Using impact bonds to improve education quality in low- and middle-income countries. Government Outcomes Lab.
Chang, Y.-C. a.-L. (2020). Mapping course sustainability by embedding the SDGS inventory into the university curriculum: a case study from national university of Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Sustainability, 4274.
Teh, S. Y. (2020). Education for sustainable development: The STEM approach in Universiti Sains Malaysia. Universities as Living Labs for Sustainable Development, 567-587.