Throwing weight behind a greener and fairer world

The University has been joining an international programme started by the University of Exeter and the British educational firm Quacquarelli Symonds to give students a glimpse into the sustainability issues confronting global societies, and challenge them to find ways to solve them.

The Future17 initiative was conducted by a consortium of universities from four continents: CUHK in Hong Kong, Exeter in the UK, Stellenbosch University in South Africa and the University of São Paulo in Brazil. A pilot programme was launched in last term, with 120 students from the four universities joining. The University saw 25 students and 10 academics take part in it.

The programme began with an online induction introducing students to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) and design thinking skills. Mentored by academics from participating universities and international partners, students were assigned to teams working on 11 projects encompassing a range of sustainability issues, and were tasked with conceiving innovative solutions. Upon completion, an online project showcase was held, and CUHK students might use the experience to fulfil the University general education requirements.

“Through the programme, students have learned of the complex nature of real-world sustainability issues, and realised the necessity to join forces in order to find practical solutions,” said Professor Amos Tai, associate director of the Office of University General Education. “Everybody can play a role, not only through their own career but also by adjusting their lifestyle, in creating an economically vibrant, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable world.”

“During the programme, I did a lot of research related to public health and found that environmental changes, such as sea-level rises and droughts, can affect people’s health. We helped design frameworks and toolkits that will enable academics and other members of the community to educate others on the importance of climate action and how it influences all the other SDGs. It was an excellent opportunity to integrate academic learning with life experiences and community engagement,” said Enzo Li, a Year 2 public health student who participated in a climate action project.

Another Year 3 urban studies student, Osbert Leung, took part in a project that explored timber recycling. “Our project aimed to discover how timber as a construction material can be used in a more sustainable and circular way in the European context. Being involved in this project gave me a broader view of the construction industry and the challenges of transitioning to a circular economy. I hope to contribute to the goal or other SDGs in the future, and promote sustainable development in Hong Kong.”

“Higher education in the 21st century must address the grand challenges that confront humanity,” said Provost Professor Alan Chan. “The programme presents an excellent opportunity for students to work with an international team and organisations to solve real-life problems. We hope they will not only gain valuable experience and acquire new skills, but also become future champions of sustainable development. CUHK is pleased to be a founding partner of this global initiative, which aligns with the goals of CUHK 2025, the University’s new strategic plan.”

Check out the programme website for more details about Future17.

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