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Strathclyde scoops Green Gown Award for Student Engagement programme

Strathclyde students Callum Taylor, Emma Tate and Steven Nolan with Kembujeh with local people in Kembujeh.

Strathclyde has won a prestigious Green Gown Award in Student Engagement for an initiative where staff and students work together on research projects to tackle global challenges.

The Vertically Integrated Projects for Sustainable Development programme (VIP4SD) allow students to work on active research projects throughout their time at University, allowing them to develop a deeper level of subject learning and understanding of sustainable development issues, obtaining academic credits and developing work based skills.

Sustainable goals

The programme is led by Professor Steve Marshall and Dr Scott Strachan and involves researchers and students from across the various Faculties and in different year groups. Strathclyde has 13 VIPs involving more than 200 students, each focusing on a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.(SDG).

The category reflects that students and staff must work together to achieve goals for maximum understanding and engagement across an institution.

The judges at the awards, which highlight the innovative and inspiring sustainability work taking place in universities and colleges, said the project was ‘an excellent interdisciplinary programme’ and one which ‘provides a great legacy.’

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Strathclyde Principal and Vice Chancellor, said:

I am delighted that the University of Strathclyde has received this prestigious award, which recognises our commitment to engage our students in new ways of teaching and learning that enable them to work in partnership with their peers, researchers and academics to make a difference to sustainable development through ‘useful learning’.”

Staff on stage wit award

One project in the programme, Sustainable Energy for Development, focuses on providing affordable and clean energy for all, and involves Business, Engineering and Social Science students designing appropriate and sustainable energy solutions.

Students are also given the opportunity to develop off-grid systems and test their solutions in remote rural communities in Africa and India, with 12 village school solar systems having been installed since 2007, providing lighting, ventilation and small power services for around 5,000 pupils.

The projects engage students in real-world research and development that can have a lasting impact on communities, but also on the students themselves.

Third year EME student Callum Taylor, a VIP4SD student who was part of the team that installed a solar system in the Gambian village of Kembujeh in June, earlier this year, said: “The highlight was seeing the obvious difference electricity was going to make to the school.

“The whole experience has really reinforced my reason for coming to university to become an engineer – to help people.”

Other projects have focused on health and wellbeing, such as the Drug Discovery Team where engineers, biochemists and mathematicians have worked together to develop new techniques that can be used in the discovery of new antibiotics.

Education VIPs also partner with local schools in low participation areas of Glasgow and rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

Iain Patton, CEO at EAUC, said: “Now in its 15th year, the Green Gown Awards celebrate the very pinnacle of best practice in a sector that is well ahead of the curve on the sustainability agenda. The submissions this year were of an incredibly high calibre, tackling a huge array of sustainable development areas. “

This year’s UK and Ireland Green Gown Awards finalists represented more than one million students and 162,000 staff. They recognise the sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities, colleges and the learning and skills sectors across the UK and Ireland.

Organised by EAUC - the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, the awards ceremony was held at Glasgow Science Centre on Tuesday 26th November.

Research from finalists covered ground breaking air quality studies, ways to improve sustainable production and consumption of cut flowers, tools to help calculate carbon sequestration in trees and engineering ideas to overcome water shortages.

The VIP4SD programme has benefited from the University’s Alumni Fund in the form of Dragons’ Den events, held at the annual conference, where teams are able to pitch for their own research funding, and student travel to Africa to work with communities and deliver impact. The next conference will be held in Technology & Innovation Centre on 25th March 2020.

A full list of Green Gown winners can be found here. Strathclyde will now go head to head with other global regional winners for the International Green Gown Awards in July 2020.

The Awards are also delivered on a regional basis in Australasia, French speaking Europe and Canada.