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Quality education for all, leaving no-one behind

20th September 2021

Author: Dr. Wendy M. Purcell, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University

Dr Wendy Purcell

What we do in higher education matters! Transforming lives through education and research is our purpose.

Helping develop talent to contribute to the betterment of society, pursuing knowledge and its application through innovation, and partnering with other stakeholders to create value, higher education helps create a world where no-one is left behind. This resonates strongly with what the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call us to do. With 17 goals and 169 targets, the SDGs are the nearest thing we have to a strategy for our world and represent a critical mission for global higher education.

Inclusive education connects curiosity with community. Amplifying knowledge sharing, through disciplinary and interdisciplinary content and projects, helps to develop the leaders of tomorrow and support professionals currently in role. Given the pace and quantum of change and the multiple domains changing simultaneously, building confidence and competence through higher education focused on the pursuit of sustainable development is an investment in the shared future of humanity.

High-impact research connects global issues with local solutions. Tackling the grand challenges of our day situates research at the intersection of people, planet, and prosperity. A healthy economy is an outcome of a healthy society, and this relies on a healthy planet. Research that explores these interdependencies and connections can help advance a more inclusive global community.

Given the profound disruptions we are experiencing, from the climate crisis to inequities in society, COVID-19, technological advancement and the search for meaning in our lives, the SDGs represent a shared purpose. The goals can be our compass, supporting us in our efforts to navigate the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity – so-called VUCA conditions that are our new normal.

Higher education needs to play its fullest part in advancing the transformational change our world needs. Sharing knowledge, championing a spirit of discovery and applying knowledge to create solutions are all part of higher education’s contribution to the collective global effort for equity. This is why I am supporting Emerald Publishing as Series Editor of 17 books on Higher Education and the Sustainable Development Goals. Higher education institutions play a critical role in fulfilment of the goals and can do more to connect their work with the communities they serve and help create a more sustainable future. As organizations that have stood for many centuries in some cases, the ability of universities and colleges to deliver against the goals will demand they adapt to this global agenda for change. This new series will showcase how they are doing just that and is a call to action for global higher education to help create a world that leaves no-one behind.