In the transition to a sustainable society, students, colleges and universities also have a role to play in sustainable development within higher education. Higher education institutions play an essential role in passing on knowledge to the generation of the future. Moreover, the institutions also have the innovative knowledge regarding sustainability measures from their role as knowledge and research institutes.

We see that the integral Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations increasingly form a common language within higher education when communicating about sustainability.  

Current affairs

The ever-growing enthusiasm within higher education for tackling sustainable development and the SDGs is encouraging. Both the VSNU (Association of Universities) and the VH (Association of Universities of Applied Sciences) show how various Dutch higher education institutions are contributing to the goals. The ISO endorses the importance of this transition and is in good contact with, among others, Students for Tomorrow, one of its covenant partners. They form a student network that works on informing other students about sustainability and organising projects in this area. Students for Tomorrow is also committed to more sustainable education, research and business practices at both universities and colleges. 

Viewpoint of the ISO

Higher education institutions have different facets in which sustainability can be implemented, namely: in the curriculum of the various programmes, in the research and teaching facilities and in the management. The ISO advocates an integral approach by higher education institutions, in which all these facets come together and are incorporated into the DNA of the institutions. The ISO wants higher education institutions to pay structural attention to sustainability in their core activities and to make transparent how they do this. The ISO sees opportunities for the development of knowledge and skills to understand the context of the challenges and to be able to shape and give substance to their work and social role from there.  

The ISO sees visibility and overview of sustainability measures and subjects/researchers at institutions, the drafting of sustainability policy and the standardisation of a sustainability approach as concrete measures for an integral approach to sustainability in higher education. The ISO is interested in exploring the possibilities for a centralised and uniform approach and sees a task for itself in actively entering into dialogue with its partners in the field of education and representing the interests of students and employee participation, wherever this subject is discussed at the national level. Not only the liveability of the earth, but also the quality of education and the learning environment will benefit from the connection between education and the challenges of tomorrow.

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