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Integrating sustainable development into higher education at Karolinska Institutet

All students who graduate from Karolinska Institutet should be confronted with issues related to sustainable development and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during their education.

The world is currently facing massive challenges to ensure that a good life on earth for future generations. In 2015, the world's countries adopted the UN's 17 SDGs, which aim, among other things, by 2030 to eliminate extreme poverty, reduce inequalities and injustice, promote peace and justice and solve the climate crisis.

The overall purpose of this page is to clarify the relevance of sustainable development for KI's undergraduate, advanced level and doctoral education, and to propose a common frame of reference on the sustainable development topic for courses and programs at KI.

What can be considered to belong to the topic "Sustainable Development"?

"In the course of their operations, higher education institutions shall promote sustainable development to assure for present and future generations a sound and healthy environment, economic and social welfare, and justice."(Higher Education Act, ch. 1 § 5)

The call can be interpreted as that every student during their education should be confronted with questions about what sustainable development means and be able to critically evaluate and discuss the obstacles and drivers of sustainable development in order to actively contribute to global sustainable development in their future professional role. Education for sustainable development is much more than just learning about the content of the SGDs and is thus rather about preparing today's students to deal with unresolved and complex social, political, economic and environmental challenges.

Education for sustainable development

Education for sustainable development within educational programs and courses thus entails both specialization and a holistic view. However, at present, higher education is characterized by a focus on specialization: the division into human and social sciences on the one hand and natural sciences including medicine on the other, may be practical from strictly scientific starting points but does not correspond to adequate learning objectives in education for sustainable development. Thus, various forms of interdisciplinary education are also necessary for sustainable development.

Key skills that students need to learn

  • Being able to create visions - being able to imagine the future, with the basic idea that we need to know what we want to aim for, in order to be able to take the steps to develop in that direction.
  • Critical and ethical thinking and reflection - the ability to identify and critically reflect on norm and value issues and to identify the basic assumptions on which knowledge, perspectives and opinions are based. These skills enable learning about how social, environmental, economic and cultural structures can be studied in relation to sustainable development.
  • Self-awareness - the ability to reflect on one's own role in the local and global society; being able to continuously evaluate and motivate one's actions; and deal with one's feelings and desires.
  • Systems thinking - the ability to understand and search for links and synergies in different parts of a social system while solving problems.
  • Ability to create partnership, dialogue and negotiation - to be able to collaborate. A prerequisite here is an interprofessional and interdisciplinary education that dismantles professional silos and promotes collaborative and non-hierarchical group compositions.
  • Empowerment.

Therefore, it is the ability to identify and reason on complex issues that needs to be taught in education for sustainable development. In other words, sustainable development should primarily be regarded as a skill topic where the skills-based goals are in focus.

Information for educators, including examples of intended learning outcomes and references

More thorough information for educators and program directors regarding the integration of sustainable development in education at KI (including examples of intended learning outcomes and references) 

Additional resources for sustainable development

https://sdgimpactassessmenttool.org/

https://www.humanrightscareers.com/un-sustainable-development-goals-courses/

https://sdgacademy.org/course/transforming-our-world/

UN:s Global Goals for Sustainable Development

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

More information about the global goals on UN:s web page

Maria Niemi

Coordinator for sustainable development in education