Integration of SDGs across the University via our new corporate strategy
Having considered a review of the role and contribution of higher education in the coming decade, GCU’s consultative process of strategy development found strong commitment to the Common Good amongst our staff and students and enthusiasm for this to remain our mission. Building on this strong foundation, our Strategy 2030 is using the SDGs as its guiding framework, and has an objective to embed a commitment to the SDGs within our research-led, globally-aware curriculum. In order to successfully achieve the goals and objectives of Strategy 2030 we need to focus on successfully integrating the SDGs into our learning and teaching, research, operations, partnerships, governance and culture.
The University’s commitment to the SDGs demonstrates its commitment to influencing recovery from the pandemic through social innovation, locally and globally, and signals the major role that universities can play in contributing to socially-just and sustainable communities now and in the future. Our research has focused on the SDGs since 2017, and the new strategy encourages a focus on the SDGs right across the University, including education for sustainable development, widening access to those from non-traditional backgrounds, support for social innovation by students and staff, outreach to our local communities in Glasgow and London, as well as the operational activities of the University. It also builds on our long-standing commitment to reducing environmental impact by bringing forward our Carbon neutrality commitment to 2040.
GCU has long been a distinctive, inclusive and forward-looking university committed to its social mission to promote the common good. Therefore, the SDGs as a framework for delivery of the Strategy is not a change of direction for the University, but more an embodiment of how to articulate the Common Good. Our ambition is to be a world- leading university for social innovation, delivering transformative education and impactful research through purposeful partnerships as a globally connected university with an engaged University community committed to the Common Good.
Planning and execution of the project: Following the launch of GCU Strategy 2030 in January 2021, we are undertaking many new initiatives related to the achievement of the SDGs, such as, an SDG Integration Working Group, reporting to our Executive Board. The Working Group has a number of fluid workstreams that draw in the most relevant people across the University to focus on various aspects of the SDGs. For instance, we currently have workstreams on curriculum development, communications, student engagement and research. The working group has an action plan for 2021 to ensure a rapid increase in the knowledge of, and engagement with, the SDGs across the University. This is particularly important with COP26 taking place in Glasgow this year. A longer-term action plan will be developed towards the end of the year with a focus on the longer term integration of the SDGs across all activities of the University. Monitoring mechanisms: The annual University planning process underpins the implementation of Strategy 2030 and delivery of the key performance indicators. A new planning process will be aligned with Strategy 2030 and will measure progress against a set of internal targets, mapped to the SDGs, some developed as part of the Strategy implementation process, and some more specific to individual areas of the University. As part of this work we will undertake a review of our current reporting structure and incorporate sustainability reporting based on our commitment to the Common Good and the SDGs which will also become a monitoring mechanism of our impact towards the SDGs. Resources utilized in the project: financial, in-kind and human resources.
Measuring impact against the SDGs is challenging. However, two initiatives have helped with this. One is our internal staff pulse survey, the most recent of these found that 96% of staff believe in the University motto ‘for the common good’ and believe it is important. The University sees this as also a commitment to the SDGs, as the essence of both is towards doing good, and contributing towards sustainable development, both locally and globally. The other is the Times Higher Education Impact Ranking, the only global performance tables that assess universities against the SDGs. GCU has performed strongly in both years of the rankings; in 2020 GCU’s overall score improved from 85.2 to 89/100, and the University was ranked 43rd overall in the world out of 766 universities and 8th in the UK, an improvement from our ranking of 44th out of 480 universities and 10th in the UK in 2019.
Enabling conditions: • Directly relevant to GCU’s ‘For The Common Good’ mission. • Provide a common framework for communicating the work we do ‘For the Common Good’ to stakeholders. • The Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework is also based on the SDGs. • Student and staff enthusiasm Constraints: • Need to reframe our approach to resources such as technology and financing to understand how they too can contribute to the SDGs. Innovations: • In 2017, we became the first UK University to frame our Research Strategy around the SDGs, and we are well placed to contribute to the SDGs via the capacity and quality of our research.
To ensure sustainability, key organisational drivers in Strategy 2030 enable the focus of the University to change whilst building on existing strengths such as the Common Good, impactful research and transformative education and our values of confidence, responsibility, integrity and creativity. Our new vision of being a world leading University for social innovation, using the SDGs as the guiding framework for strategy delivery and the commitment to becoming a leading Civic University represent a step change, but also, continuity. The SDG framework is sustainable within higher education as it benefits the University, staff students and other stakeholders and also contributing to the achievement of the SDGs. There are a growing number of publications to support universities commitment to the SDGs including the PRME Blueprint for SDG integration into curriculum, research and partnerships, co-authored by a GCU academic that sits on the GCU SDG Integration Working Group.
Whilst the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet known, consideration of the impact identifies the importance of socially innovative programmes and interventions which develop resilience within populations and communities in the face of numerous known and potentially unknown challenges and changes. New priorities in relation to health, inequalities, social care, community health, wellbeing and the development of a new ecosystem of education will take centre stage in the coming years. Artificial intelligence and the huge potential of online service provision will be utilised in unexpected ways to deliver better, more equal, public services and there will be a reimagining of the role of Universities in this challenging new world post Covid-19.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Deliverables & Timeline
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Glasgow Caledonian University is a multi-campus university with its main campus in Glasgow and a campus in London and New York. In addition, GCU has partnerships across North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia and South Pacific.