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Rethinking higher education

Education must be forward looking. It must prepare our students for the changes and challenges ahead. UN´s Agenda 2030 provides a lens through which these changes and challenges are brought to the fore. This agenda – with its 17 sustainable development goals – is a collective response to what has become abundantly clear over the past few decades: that human activity is pushing the world towards its very limits.

View health and well-being

The closer we get to the planetary boundaries the more pressing it becomes to view health and well-being in the broadest of contexts. We now see how health is impacted by climate changes and migration, by pollution and urbanization. We see how socioeconomic factors contribute to health inequities worldwide. And we understand how health is inextricably coupled to peace and conflict and to the quality and integrity of our institutions.

How should universities contribute to society in a scenario that more than ever before requires a proper insight in the complex interdependence between economy, resources, environment, and health? How should we reconfigure our educational programs, to capture the engagement of our students and ensure that we think and act knowledgeably, ethically and critically across disciplines and sectors?

Global challenges

These are questions that we now want to ponder. On Saturday, 30 March 2019, I invite you all to Aula Medica for a one-day free conference entitled, “Rethinking Higher Education – Inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals”. In this conference we will explore how higher education institutions can better prepare tomorrow’s leaders and professionals to take on global challenges, and how educational programs can be adapted and strong alliances forged across traditional boundaries.

I’m pleased and honored that both Rt Hon. Helen Clark (former Prime Minister of New Zealand and head of UNDP) and Sir Michael Marmot (Chair of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health and Director of the University College London Institute of Health Equity) will join us as keynote speakers.

A forum for discussions

The conference – hosted by Karolinska Institutet, together with the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences – will provide a forum for discussions between students, teachers, researchers and other higher education professionals. In eight different workshops we will discuss the changes required to foster a sustainable and equitable world, explore the social and political factors that create and affect health and wellbeing, and develop collaborative action plans based on critical, ethical and systems thinking. The conference will end with a chance to mix and mingle during a student-organized party at the Medical Student Union.

The Sustainable Development Goals underscore our collective responsibility and inspire us to envision a new role for universities in achieving better health and wellbeing for all. It is time to take a fresh look at higher education. I look forward to seeing you at Aula Medica, Campus Solna, on 30 March!

Register here for “Rethinking Higher Education – Inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals”


Sara Lind

Sara Lind

Thanks for addressing this topic! I know you have before, but I feel empowered in my role as a environmental and sustainability representative for a department at KI. One very effective action a large organisation as KI can do to make impact is to look closely at our own resource consumption, and especially something we all do; eat. When we eat in our role as an employee, I think the only sustainable solution is a fully plant-based diet. It doesn't mean we all has to go vegan, but at work, when we use money set by Swedish authorities, we should use that in the most sensible way. A plantbased diet is one of the most efficient ways an individual can change environmental impact for the better. Check out Naturvårdsverkets report "Hållbara konsumtionsmönster" https://www.naturvardsverket.se/Documents/publikationer6400/978-91-620-6653-6.pdf?pid=14404 for example. Or why not The Lancets recent publication about our unsustainable meat consumption (when it comes to both health and climate): https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32971-4/fulltext Our department, The University Library, recently made the decision to go vegetarian. I think this should be the directive to all departments at KI. And I don't see anything wrong with that decision coming from the president! Thanks for all your hard work, and see you at the conference.

Katja Petzold

Katja Petzold

I think working on increasing sustainability is great. One of the dilemmas we are facing is the need to meet other academics versus the negative environmental impact of traveling. Can Karolinska Institut consider to climate compensate the travel from its stuff as part of the effort for sustainability and contribution to the 2030 goals?

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