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Driving sustainable development through higher education
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November 19, 2023 09:07 pm | Updated November 25, 2023 04:56 pm IST

By creating sustainable living laboratories within their campuses, universities in India are actively promoting sustainable behaviour among students and staff

Research endeavours not only contribute to the global knowledge pool but also inspire students to think critically and creatively about sustainable solutions. | Photo Credit: Freepik

With a growing recognition of environmental challenges and a commitment to shaping a sustainable future, universities across India are actively integrating sustainability principles into their academic programmes, campus operations, and community engagement initiatives. By equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and values required to address pressing sustainability issues, educational institutions are fostering a culture of environmental and social responsibility that extends beyond the confines of their campuses.

Curriculum integration

The first step is integration of sustainability issues into the curriculum. Recognising the need for a multidisciplinary approach, institutions offer a range of courses and programmes focused on sustainable development, environmental studies, and social responsibility. Conversations around sustainable energy systems, climate change adaptation, ecological conservation, and sustainable business practices are elemental today, especially in the context of future careers.

India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 acknowledges the importance of sustainable development in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). According to a study conducted by IIT Madras, 75% of Indian HEIs have recognised the need to integrate sustainability into their curriculum. Another survey by the University Grants Commission (UGC) revealed that 85% of HEIs have implemented campus sustainability initiatives, including the use of renewable energy and waste management programmes. With a focus on community engagement, HEIs have collaborated with local organisations and government bodies on various sustainable development projects.

Indian universities serve as vibrant hubs of research and innovation for sustainability. Faculty and researchers actively engage in cutting-edge projects addressing environmental challenges, such as renewable energy technologies, sustainable urban planning, waste management, and biodiversity conservation. These research endeavours not only contribute to the global knowledge pool but also inspire students to think critically and creatively about sustainable solutions. Additionally, universities collaborate with industry partners, government agencies, and non-profit organisations to translate research into practical applications, fostering sustainable practices and technologies that can address local and national sustainability issues.

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Campus initiatives

Universities in India have embraced energy-efficient practices, utilise renewable energy sources, and implement water conservation and waste management programmes. Campuses feature sustainable living labs, eco-friendly buildings, green spaces, and sustainable transportation systems to reduce their environmental footprint. Moreover, by creating sustainable living laboratories within their campuses, universities actively promote sustainable behaviour among students and staff, encouraging practices such as recycling, water conservation, and energy efficiency.

Through community projects, awareness campaigns, and social entrepreneurship initiatives, students and faculty work alongside communities to find sustainable solutions for local issues. These not only benefit the community but also provide students with real-world experiences and the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills to create positive change.

Thus, Indian universities are embracing the call for sustainable development through their commitment to sustainability in curriculum integration, research and innovation, campus operations, and community engagement.

The writer is Director, Department of Research and Innovation, and Director, Internal Quality Assurance Cell, CMR University, Bengaluru.

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