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Universities develop a more sustainable future

Publication date: Sep 18, 2008 3:06:52 PM

Experts from the worlds of law, geography, economics, public health and town planning will meet at UCL (University College London) on Friday September 19th to examine the ways in which today’s universities can become locally-rooted champions for global sustainability, reaching out to the wider community to help bring about lasting change. The symposium, which is called: “The Sustainable University: Relating Ecological Thinking, Learning and Research”, will feature a keynote speech by Professor Michael M’Gonigle, co-founder of Greenpeace International and Professor and Eco-Research Chair of Environmental Law and Policy at the University of Victoria.

Putting the event into context, Dr Jane Holder, Reader of Environmental Law at UCL and one of the event organisers, said: “The United Nations designated 2005-2014 the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and the goal was to integrate the principles of sustainable development into all aspects of education, encouraging people to help create a more sustainable future.

“Early initiatives seemed to focus on schools and were quite rightly seeking to ‘embed’ sustainable development in the curriculum, but we’re trying to move beyond this by questioning more fundamentally, and hopefully more radically, the role of the university in ‘sustaining the world’.

“The focus of our symposium will be on sustainability and learning, but at the heart of the seminar is a concern with how, as researchers and teachers, we can create genuine and valuable intellectual and practical links with other disciplines, local communities, and wider research networks – engaging with a broader base of people to help implement change.”

There are already numerous examples of universities which are engaging in active community participation, such as:

· UCL’s Centre for Law and the Environment which has fostered long term working relationships with NGOs and agencies, leading to student internships at the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD), the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), and the London Sustainable Development Commission. Partnership between students from UCL and other universities with Friends of the Earth and Capacity has also resulted in an annual public interest environmental law conference. The Centre further encourages its graduates working in government, law, and NGOs to return and help build a practical aspect into UCL’s degree programmes.

· the University of Kent Law School Clinic is a multi-award winning example of how law students can apply their legal skills to social and, increasingly, environmental problems in the locality.

· the University of Brighton has worked hard to build on its traditionally strong links with the schools, hospitals and housing associations in the area.

This event on September 19th will lbe an opportunity for experts from many different backgrounds to look at new ways in which universities can form networks to bring about lasting change on the local, national and international stage.

-Ends-

Note to editors:

For further information, to receive abstracts of papers, or to arrange an interview with Dr jane holder, please contact Dave Weston in the UCL Press Office on +44 20 7679 7678 or email d.weston@ucl.ac.uk

About UCL:

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. In the government’s most recent Research Assessment Exercise, 59 UCL departments achieved top ratings of 5* and 5, indicating research quality of international excellence.

UCL is in the top ten world universities in the 2007 THES-QS World University Rankings, and the fourth-ranked UK university in the 2007 league table of the top 500 world universities produced by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. UCL alumni include Marie Stopes, Jonathan Dimbleby, Lord Woolf, Alexander Graham Bell, and members of the band Coldplay.