The University of Glasgow knows the importance of creating a sustainable future — that’s why it’s providing various opportunities for students to delve into the most pressing global challenges facing humanity and the natural world today. The university is committed to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global framework that encourages every nation on earth to become a better place by ending poverty, improving education and reducing inequality, to name just three desirable outcomes. To answer this call to action, the University of Glasgow is contributing to each SDG through several areas of activity: Research, Learning and Teaching, University Operations, and Civic Engagement.
Take Daria Slavnova, for example. Her Common Law LLB programme was designed to spark reflection and discussion of global issues.
“The classes I am taking in my final year (UN Law, International Criminal Law and Comparative Private Law) are structured in a way to include matters relating to the climate and environment as subsidiary discussions to the main content of the course. Specifically, these have addressed the UN Climate framework, ecocide, and water rights respectively,” shares the fourth-year student.
Last year, her professors encouraged students to look into the impact of climate litigation on theories of political economy. Daria now sees that strategic climate litigation is “the most effective embodiment of the 13th SDG – climate action.”
She adds: “I commend the incorporation of these more activist discussions in a classroom setting which would traditionally focus on what the law is rather than how to improve it and mould it to our changing world.”
Some other examples, according to Daria, include healthcare law and reproductive rights, labour law, and competition law. The 16th SDG – peace, justice, and strong institutions – permeates all coursework, discussions and topics in the course as students are constantly pushed to question whether judicial and legislative decisions are fair and viable.
Outside of class, Daria is the President of the Glasgow University Environmental Law Society (GUELS). In the last two years, she has seen the society host a multitude of educational workshops, panel talks, socials, and even the formation of an environmental law research clinic – a testament to how the University of Glasgow welcomes students who are keen to increase awareness on sustainability.
As a Sustainable Transport Promoter for the Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team (GUEST), Daria works with 11 interns to encourage a shift in behaviour towards social and environmental wellbeing. Picture organising a litter pick of the West End, promoting the winter cycling week event organised by the university’s sustainable transport team or discussing sustainable career efforts with the Career Service team.
Daria cherishes these experiences. “Before GUELS and GUEST, I was unaware of the enormous number of environmental projects, initiatives and events taking place around me – big and small, academic and activist, on and off campus,” she says.
Likewise, Tom Campbell, an International Relations MSc student, works as a strategy and engagement intern with the Planning, Insight and Analytics Team. His role focuses on promoting and integrating the SDGs across every aspect of the University of Glasgow.
“The largest piece of work I’ve been involved in was preparing the University of Glasgow’s submission to the 2022 Times Higher Education SDG Impact Rankings,” Tom shares. “What I found most fulfilling about this was that it made me realise how much work goes on across the university that encapsulates the SDG agenda.”
Such immersion pairs well with what Tom learned in class about how politics shapes the lived experiences and identities of everyone. “Studying International Relations has helped me think about global issues relating to the SDGs because the climate emergency is truly global, and overcoming it requires understanding issues related to global inequalities, foreign policy, conflict, and migration, as well as renewing international cooperation through institutions such as the United Nations,” he says. “Climate change is intimately linked to international structures of power; environmental changes disproportionately affect countries in the global south and have caused the displacement of thousands of refugees.”
Little wonder why the University of Glasgow has been ranked 19th globally out of 1,406 institutions, and first in Scotland, in THE Impact Rankings 2022 – rankings that aim to demonstrate the difference a university is making in the world by working towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The University also sits among the top 100 universities, according to the QS Sustainability Rankings 2023.
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