Several prominent higher education representatives will gather for an international conference on Wednesday, November 21, to spotlight different perspectives on the role of academia and the need for internationalisation.

According to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2030 will see the end of poverty, reduced inequalities and injustices around the globe, peace, justice, and a solution to the climate crisis.

Is it possible for universities to genuinely contribute to improving society and creating sustainable development in the world? How can institutions of higher education ensure that learning and research have a tangible and positive effect?

These are some of the questions that will be explored at the conference, under the banner of Universities’ role in global engagement for sustainable development.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Cecilia Christersson is a strong believer in universities’ potential to contribute to sustainable development. She has long been heavily involved in several global projects, for instance as Chair of the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institution’s working group for refugees. In 2015, Christersson also spearheaded a collaborative international effort to include higher education as part of the UN's SDGs.

“Since 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the University, we saw this as a great opportunity to highlight the importance global engagement, an issue in which Malmö University is taking the lead,” she said.

The day will kick off with a presentation from Charles A. Hopkins, who is a UNESCO chair holder at York University in Canada. He will speak on the challenges that arise when implementing strategies for sustainable development. This will be followed by a talk on Sweden’s role when it comes to internationalisation by former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kalmar, Agneta Bladh, as well as a discussion of the importance of networks by Professor Jacek Witkos from the European University Network in Poland.

We have the opportunity to identify which strategic alliances need to be strengthened in order to achieve common sustainability goals.

Cecilia Chistersson

In the afternoon, Professor Amanda Murphy will speak about the effects of research on internationalisation in higher education. Murphy is Director of the Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation in Milan. The conference rounds off with an open lecture on migration and mobility by Professor Rainer Bauböck, as part of the Knowledge for Change seminar series.

Malmö University is currently developing an overall organisational plan for global engagement. A recent survey of the internationalisation work at the University has provided a useful springboard.

“By visualising our international collaborations both at faculty and university level, we have the opportunity to identify which strategic alliances need to be strengthened in order to achieve common sustainability goals, like the UN's SDGs in higher education and gender equality,” said Christersson.

Another important focus is strengthening internationalisation closer to home. This involves thinking about how the University fosters diversity among its employees and students, as well as the development of teaching and skills from a global perspective.

“We need to ask how well we support teachers when it comes to, for example, intercultural skills and language education. How do we uphold international experience both among students and teachers?”