Universities and colleges are critical components for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as indicated in the agenda itself. Their prominent role is even crucial as the achievement of its Goals has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and other global as well as regional crises. Such circumstances have created a wide range of challenges, affecting in particular developing and vulnerable countries.
University College Cork (UCC) a member institution of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) in Ireland, embarked on the development of a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Toolkit in order to generate a useful resource for academic staff to better integrate the 2030 Agenda within their teaching practice.
The project was funded through the National Forum for Teaching and Learning, a national body in Ireland that leads and provides advice about the enhancement of teaching and learning in higher education, and originated in response to a baseline review that was conducted on how the SDGs are or were included in learning and teaching within the university across the various academic programs offered.
This baseline review was undertaken as part of UCC’s submission to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s STARS rating system. The submission process provided a gap analysis of the university’s sustainability program, revealing that the SDG coverage within its curriculum was low. Although the university is, according to its data, ranked in the top ten universities in the world for sustainability and impact.
Further analysis of this outcome uncovered two essential findings. First, there was ample enthusiasm to include the SDGs in the teaching processes across the institution, but there was also a lack of resources to support this. Moreover, it also revealed that many of the university’s lecturers and professors were already implicitly including the SDGs in the curriculum through various means.
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University College Cork