U7+Alliance: A learning for G7

Tackling global challenges from campus


August 5, 2019

/ By / Kolkata

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The U7+ summit 2019 (courtesy: Sciences Po)

The battle to tackle global challenges such as inequality or climate change is now also being fought by students. A group of almost 50 educational institutions have come together as U7+ Alliance to contribute to this battle.

Heads of the U7+ Alliance, comprising 47 institutions from 18 countries, representing more than two million students worldwide, came together to adopt six principles in line with G7 summit agenda in order to ensure that the younger generation is sensitised about one of the biggest challenges facing humanity.

French minister of higher education, research and innovation, Frédérique Vidal, opened the inaugural summit with the message, “The U7+ summit that is about to open will be a unique space for debate on the global roles of universities beyond academia.” Frédéric Mion, president of Sciences Po, addressed the conference room stating, “This meeting is not yet another academic symposium, nor is it a place for us to advocate for increased support. This summit is a circle for group reflection and action on the future and development of higher education in the world, and our role as global players.”

The universities adopted six principles to undertake specific actions at their institutions and recognise that they have an important role even beyond the field of academia, to work together, as well as individually, to make positive global impact. The U7 alliance is an initiative of 13 French higher education institutions under the patronage of French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Universities have always been and remain global actors, and we act upon issues that relate to the G7 agenda,” said Vanessa Scherrer, vice-president for international affairs at Sciences Po, one of the founding institutions and the current chair of U7. “The U7+ is an alliance of world universities taking action in the area of the G7, and in a special way. Rather than making recommendations to the heads of state of the G7, we will present our commitments to action, as a way of trying to make a change and lead by example. This is the DNA of U7+.”

The U7+ members have committed to pursue joint action through the alliance by meeting every year and discussing the different ways of how they can contribute towards making positive changes. The University of Toronto and Paris Sciences et Lettres said that by 2025 the students of the two institutions will have access to courses related to climate, biodiversity and sustainability during their studies thus exposing them to the key challenges in regards to Earth. Twenty-eight other universities will also take part in this action. The universities have also committed to adopting sustainable goals for reducing GHG emissions from their campuses along with reducing waste such as plastic bags or bottles.

The University of British Colombia in Canada presented the idea of developing partnerships not only among the universities and colleges, but also with citizens, community organisations and NGOs to help spread the idea of a sustainable world. The Università Bocconi (Italy) and Sciences Po presented the importance of students being exposed to international experience to understand the cultural diversity and facilitate interactive learning.

29 U7+ universities along with University College London have stressed on creating interdisciplinary and cross-border research projects that have societal impact on areas presented by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), like food and health, climate and energy transition, sustainability, equal rights and opportunities.

The U7+ alliance recognises that the educational institutions are the medium to build a future for a sustainable world as the present students are the ones to be residing in it. They believe that the universities under the alliance can serve as labs to develop the best practices for better future and then share it not only within their network but more broadly with the similar institutions worldwide for inspiration.

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