Universities shift focus towards SDGs to prove societal value
Martin Eriksson was recently interviewed by the British magazine Times Higher Education, THE. Here is a clip from that article.
Martin Eriksson is an environmental sciences researcher at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology and network manager of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network Northern Europe, which has more than 50 member institutions across the Nordic region.
He said that a recent snapshot study of the network revealed that 11 out of 16 universities surveyed mentioned SDGs in their institutional strategy. The network has also seen an increase in the number of applications, he added.
“This is an indication that not only are they interested in aligning their strategies with the SDGs but they are also interested in networking and collaborating on these questions,” he said.
Dr Eriksson added that some of Sweden’s research funding bodies now ask academics to reference which SDGs their applied research will target as part of applications.
Another important driver is “interest and demand from students”, he said.
“There is increased pressure on universities and teachers to keep up to date with these things. Possibly this has to do with the effect of Greta Thunberg,” he said.
However, Dr Eriksson added that academics should be free to “critically evaluate” the SDGs, given that the UN’s Agenda 2030 was signed by 193 heads of state and is hence “a political framework”.
“Universities are important contributors to the implementation of the SDGs but they also have a long-term mission to generate and teach knowledge and should not be bound by politics. There are definitely people within universities that don’t have the same stance on this,” he said, adding that some academics may see the goals as a fad in comparison to the long-term mission of science.