The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been instrumental in raising public awareness on environmental sustainability issues worldwide. The Agenda focuses on five critical dimensions of sustainable development: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. The notion of partnership underlines the importance of governments at different levels working with non-state actors such as civil society, the private sector, knowledge institutions, including universities, and the media. There is also an increasing need to embrace a larger framework for social sustainability in which attention is paid to the role of universities and their public engagement.
In their conventional role, universities have focused on developing pedagogies and methodologies for the production of scientific knowledge. Universities have often acted as "research institutions" for governments and contributed to public policy. Yet, universities need to do more than what they are conventionally accustomed to do to be able to contribute more meaningfully to the science-policy-action interface. The good news is that universities are increasingly taking the role of "platform provider", to help mobilize old and new sources of knowledge to attain social sustainability.
Moving forward, as public awareness on social sustainability expands, universities need to develop and realize a co-learning and knowledge co-production interface with diverse institutions and the general public working on tackling sustainability challenges. New configurations of science-policy-action learning, with an emphasis on public service, are being called upon to secure a sustainable future for Asia and the world. Thus, universities need to reflect on their roles in transformative and transgressive learning and action through their policies, pedagogies, curricula, research and extension work.
In view of the foregoing, this plenary session will address the following questions:
- With regard to achieving social sustainability, what are some of the new findings in universities’ engagement with public vis-à-vis transgressive learning and action in Asia?
- What kind of new research-policy-action linkages can help universities in better responding to sustainability challenges?
- In which ways can stakeholders and partners working on social sustainability support the transformation of higher education institutions (HEIs), in relation to their policies, pedagogies, curricula and research to nurture future leaders and serve society in various dimensions?