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Strathclyde scoops Green Gown Award

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The University of Strathclyde has won the 2020 International Green Gown Award for Student Engagement for its Vertically Integrated Projects for Sustainable Development (VIP4SD) programme.

The VIP4SD programme offers students the opportunity to work in partnership with their peers on ambitious research projects that tackle the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Students work together from across disciplines and year groups, in partnership with experienced researchers and academics, while gaining academic credits.

VIP4SD projects range from the development of new tools for drug discovery, such as new antibiotics (SDG3); and the development of STEM reasoning skills in schools located in areas of deprivation at home and in Sub-Saharan Africa (SDG4) to developing new energy solutions for the one billion of the world’s people currently living without clean and affordable electricity (SDG7).

Prestigious recognition

The programme qualified as a finalist for the Global Green Gown Awards after winning the Student Engagement category at the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) 2019 UK and Ireland Green Gown Awards in November ‘19.

Established as the most prestigious recognition of sustainability best practice within the education sector globally, the International Green Gown Awards provide benchmarks for excellence and are aligned with the UN SDGs.

Strathclyde was named as winners in the large institution category during an online ceremony hosted by Sonya Peres, Climate Commission Officer from EAUC and Carina Mutschele, Youth & Education from United Nations Environment. The Awards Ceremony was part of the HESI event at the UN High-Level Political Forum.

The International Green Gown Awards celebrate the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges across the world and are endorsed by United Nations Environment and supported by The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), L’Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) and International Association of Universities (IAU).

Global citizens

Dr Scott Strachan, of the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, who co-directs the VIP4SD programme with Prof Steve Marshall, said: “We are challenging our students to work together as one to contribute to the UN SDGs.

“By embedding Research-Based Education for Sustainable Development in our undergraduate curricula, we’re providing an opportunity and platform to inspire, educate, equip and mobilise our undergraduate population to engage proactively with the SDG agenda now, and to become the constructive global citizens we’ll all need to meet the challenges of sustainable development moving forward.

Given the nature of the SDGs, each team is interdisciplinary, and involves students from different faculties and year groups, working together and in partnership with staff to make a positive contribution to the targets of the UN SDGs.

“This model allows research teams to outlive the academic lifecycle of any one student; gives students the time and freedom to develop a genuine level of expertise in a field; builds on the output of previous generations of students; and ultimately enables the tackling of longer-term, highly ambitious, interdisciplinary research challenges underpinning these interconnected Global Goals.

“If we needed a reminder of the urgency of the situation we face as a global society, then we can consider it in the new context of this global pandemic that has touched the lives of us all. It is predicted that in 2020 GHG emissions will drop 7% due to the global response to tackling the Coronavirus pandemic – more than we’ve ever experienced, even during our darkest times of great depressions and war.

“However, to achieve the 1.5oC Paris Agreement target requires a 7.6% reduction in emissions each year until 2050 – that’s a “global pandemic’s worth” of GHG reduction every year for the next thirty years.

“Rather than resorting to the drastic measures we’ve seen in the global lockdown to achieve this target, it’s clear we will need to achieve this through a means that is sustainable, socially just and future-thinking. The SGDs present us with a framework for this – one that will allow us to build back better from this crisis and achieve this climate goal and others.

“Given these urgent 21st Century challenges, what is clear is that we’ll need a 21st Century approach to Higher Education capable of developing graduates with right skills and competencies needed to achieve these complex goals – and any other unanticipated global crises that we may have yet to experience along the way.

Sustainability savvy

“We are very proud that the VIP4SD programme, the first of its kind in the world, has received an award of such high esteem in recognition of its capacity for developing this new generation of sustainability-savvy and active graduates. And in doing so ‘preparing our students for the work of the world as well as the world of work’ to paraphrase the words of Sir Jonathan Porritt.

“This award is testament to the fantastic collective effort of Strathclyde staff and students who have been involved with the programme since it began – a programme that embodies all that we stand for as a socially progressive Higher Education Institution.

“We are currently in the process of mainstreaming the programme and encouraging all staff interested in starting up their own VIP4SD project to contact us with an expression of interest. We’re determined to involve as many staff and students in this award winning programme as possible as it grow inside – and potentially outside – of Strathclyde, and further demonstrate the impact that ‘useful learning’ at Strathclyde can have on society and humanity.”

The VIP4SD programme is also inviting proposals for student-focused projects that are related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with up to £5,000 of project ‘start-up’ funding available for successful applications. Proposals can be emailed to Fiona.doyle@strath.ac.uk by 12 noon on 31 July.

If you are interested in finding out more or are interested in starting up your own VIP4SD project, then please contact louise.logan@strath.ac.uk.

A VIP4SD info webinar is also schedule for 1-2.30pm, on 15th July. To register please visit https://bookings.strath.ac.uk/Home/Course/5476