5 October 2018

League of European Research Universities highlights role of institutions of higher education to advance the SDGs

The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), as part of its continuous outreach efforts about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), shares this story submitted by the League of European Research Universities, an association part of UNAI and headquartered in Belgium, composed by leading European research-intensive universities.

5 October 2018 - The League of European Research Universities - LERU (Belgium), a member institution of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), created an ad hoc group on university development cooperation, in order to find ways to embed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the policies on education, research and outreach of the institutions of higher education. During its first meeting recently held at the Catholic University of Leuven, the group came to the conclusion that research-intensive universities without any doubt are well equipped to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

They reached that conclusion based on the fact that such institutions cover all disciplinary fields and span the broad diversity of topics contained in the SDGs, offer a unique space for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, deliver science and evidence-based solutions, cooperate with a wide range of stakeholders, and serve as engines of innovation as they spin-out technologies that can be highly relevant to development. Yet, a paradox persists on how to balance highly tangible local problems with major, complex, global challenges. However, the group realized that actually the SDGs offer a way out as they connect the local and the global level, and require intensive collaboration. 

The group discovered that there is plenty of scope for complementarity and synergy among the LERU members in the field of development. To move forward, researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven set up a policy-oriented study on the subject in consultation with the members of the group. On a different level, a new focus is based on ways to cooperate, not only among themselves but also with partners in developing countries. The Chair of the group, Chris Van Geet, Vice rector of the Catholic University of Leuven stresses that "universities in the North and the South are willing to play a leading role, but we urgently need a dialogue with all stakeholders so we can create the partnerships we need".

Universities are highly reliable partners”, adds professor Van Geet. Apart from conducting the policy-oriented study on the SDGs and consulting with partners from developing countries, LERU’s ad hoc group explores topics such as innovative financing for development-relevant research, ways to leverage the SDGs in order to stimulate interdisciplinarity, and strategies to influence both national and international policy makers to make them invest more strongly in science, technology and innovation aimed at achieving the Goals.