ISCN Day 3 – Global Student Engagement In Paris, In Hong Kong, Globally

The global challenge of climate change needs a global response and their is a special opportunity and role for universities to respond. With fast approaching 200 million students in global HE they are a key community of the global population that is, currently, unable to effectively engaged in a process of climate negotiation. 

IARU found a way to engage students in the COP15 process with statements of commitment taking place across the globe. In advance if Rio+20 students were invited to participate and promote their commitments, inc universities in Australia, China, Uganda. Melissa Goodall, from Yale, explained how there was a notable difference  between both developing nation universities taking an outward, community, focus whilst developed countries focused on organisational scale, inward looking initiatives. 

The IARU Global University Climate Forum is a vehicle for student engagement at Paris COP21 in 2015. Proposals to be submitted in Autumn 2015. IARU looking to support students attending the event. 

It was great to hear some very personal case studies from students: 

Katrina Kam, a student born in Hong Kong and currently studying at HKU with a year of exchange in the USA studying sports science, gave a short presentation on her own commitments to engagement in local community initiatives, environmental programmes, etc. Whilst in the USA the mentor family were alumni of HKU – a useful and effective way of supporting students living and studying in a foreign country.

  

Jen Lee, an international student at HKU, gave a perspective of why she chose HKU and the opportunities she was afforded in social sustainability and human rights, community engagement, supporting local people in access to legal services. Jen was involved in the Green Connections programme and informal activities such as Green Drinks in HK including outdoor classrooms. Hong Kong was an attractive place to study because if its complexity and challenges, environmentally, socially and its cultural diversity. 

 
 I would urge anyone interested in student activity and engagement in this field to investigate Enactus.org and establish whether there is an active Enactus group in their city. Noted that Hong Kong University has an Enactus programme in the city. 

The benefits of exchange programmes can give a global perspective to students which they might not otherwise gain from simply following a traditional path of study.

Enactus – Best Kept Sustainability Secret in Global HE?

Last week I attended, for the first time, the Enactus National Finals in London and was totally struck by the sheer enthusiasm, innovation, sporting and supportive community that has been nurtured by the Enactus UK team and the participating universities.

35 universities groups of active Enactus teams from across the UK competed in showcasing their superb projects and it was hard to not be impressed by any of them. The five finalists (Queens University Belfast, Leeds, Southampton, Sheffield and Nottingham) were, perhaps, standouts in terms of the quality of the projects and the maturity of their thinking. Augmented by slick, well rehearsed and emotive presentations, those five certainly deserved their place on the final stage. Southampton were overall winners with Southampton in 2nd place with some brilliant projects.

I only learnt about Enactus less than a year ago when the president of the Nottingham branch contacted me to develop ideas of how The University of Nottingham might work more closely with them. Within a few minutes it was clear there were plenty of opportunities for us to work collaboratively on local projects and support their ideas for some spectacular overseas projects like Empower Malawi and Aquor.

I would encourage you to investigate further the great work underway across universities in the UK and overseas that are being carried out by highly motivated, smart students on a voluntary basis. They build their Enactus work around their courses of study and add so much value to their CVs they are sought after graduates at the end of it. The impressive panel of alumni who judged the UK National Finals is testimony to that.

Enactus thrives because it has autonomy, imagination and because it empowers students. Every single project they are working on improves the lives of the people they work with by tackling social, environmental and economic challenges. They are making a fantastic difference to the lives of communities all over the UK and globally. Branches across the globe will come together in October to compete in the World Cup and Southampton will be the UK’s representative.

This movement is an incredibly important part of the higher education sector’s contribution to sustainable development and should be recognised as such.