Every institute of higher education is on a mission to provide future professionals with integral skills and knowledge that facilitate the adequate development of their abilities. Then, there are those who go further. These are the universities that train the next generation of leaders who will go on to better communities, cities, and even the world.
More universities have started paying attention to the importance of incorporating sustainability into their organisation, culture, and sometimes even their architecture — all to inspire students to forge a greener and better future.
As countries in the EU work towards sustainable development, through increased resource efficiency and better consumption and production practices for a more sustainable Europe by 2030, it is fertile ground for students looking to make a difference through their degrees. Here are four universities that are working hard to drive this change:
Known as one of the best universities in Europe for sustainability, BOKU University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna bridges the gaps between scientific, technical, and socio-economic topics for sustainable developments in society. Founded in 1872, BOKU focuses on developing professionals, academics, and scientists who are passionate about ensuring life does not exceed the limits of the Earth’s ecological capacities.
Research plays a pivotal role in accomplishing these goals. BOKU’s findings aim to identify future problems and encourage efforts to provide and stimulate global change. International scientists are at the forefront of this change, and international students are welcome to play a role in contributing to sustainability advancements.
Here, teaching is holistic and coordinated. Across programmes, students gain the willingness to face future challenges and the know-how to create solutions independently. The programmes creating these experts cover the topics of food science and biotechnology, environmental engineering, conservation of biodiversity and habitats, , forestry, ecosystem services, as well as agricultural sciences — amongst many other topical specialisations.
Choosing the right path to play an active role in bettering society can be daunting, but thanks to BOKU’s vast suite of support and advisory services, it doesn’t have to be. Prospective students can seek advice from qualified representatives via Skype, scheduled Zoom counseling sessions, or by email.
Once on-campus, motivation to spark change will be the least of your concerns. Vienna is known to be a ‘’forest city’’, rich in both cultural and natural attractions. Here, 10,800 students — 22% of which are international — enjoy scenic surroundings while gaining the knowledge to secure a better, more picturesque tomorrow. Interested in joining them? Learn more here.
Located in Sweden, Uppsala University — the first Nordic university, founded in 1477 — is a comprehensive research-intensive university with a strong international standing. Its goal is to conduct education and research of the highest quality and relevance to make a long-standing, impactful difference on society with the help of its large community of 50,000 students and over 7,000 employees.
The university has deep specialist knowledge that span a diverse range of fields, well equipped to positively contribute to the movement for sustainable development. To facilitate this, the Uppsala University Sustainability Initiatives (UUSI) was set in place. UUSI works to better five specially selected initiatives: social justice, circular economy, water, sustainable urban development, and climate leadership. Uppsala’s researchers from various fields work together with other educational institutions, companies, and organisations to meet these goals.
Exposure to these initiatives culminates in impressive results. Among Uppsala’s alumni are 15 Nobel Prize laureates — eight of which achieved the award for discoveries made during their time as students. The university’s long history of excellence is also well-represented by prominent scientists such as Carl Linnaeus, Anders Celsius and Olof Rudbeck the Elder.
Officially established in 1343, the University of Pisa is one of the oldest public institutions in Italy — currently home to 20 departments and high-level research centres in agriculture, astrophysics, computer science, engineering, medicine, and veterinary medicine.
The university’s goal is to attract more international students who are looking to excel in these fields. To do so, they offer a range of programmes across levels, from bachelor’s, master’s, long cycle degrees, PhDs, to specialisation programmes. Whichever path students choose, the options to innovate are endless. The university is home to over 200 labs that span areas of science and technology, 17 libraries, and 13 museums.
When it comes to research, the University of Pisa is recognised internationally. It has strong ties with prestigious Pisan Institutes of the National Board of Research and the growing information technology industry, which has flourished in Tuscany over recent decades. Famous alumni include Galileo Galilei, the founder of modern science, and Nobel Prize winners Enrico Fermi and Carlo Rubbia.
For over a century, the University of Birmingham has been pursuing and sharing knowledge through both outstanding teaching and world-leading research. Making the world more sustainable is its top priority. This is done through teaching, learning, innovation, and research — each of which is practised to encourage working and living more productively.
Its efforts are effective — a fact proven by its milestones. In 2003, the university became the second in the UK to achieve Fairtrade Status. In 2010, it developed the first hydrogen microcab van for postal services. In 2016, it appointed a sustainable transport development office. In 2018, its Guild of Students obtained an “Excellent” Green Impact rating.
Here, there are over 350 different undergraduate courses and 600 postgraduate taught courses for every interest. Furthermore, the research that takes place in Birmingham impacts lives on a regional, national, and global scale. The University is home to leading academics who focus on global sustainability research topics such as good health and well-being, gender equality, clean water, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption, and climate action — amongst many others.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International