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Moira von Wright: Historic conference ahead – Nordic and Baltic rectors gather to promote sustainability

 | Opinion

On May 12th, Nordic and Baltic universities’ cooperation in sustainability and responsibility takes a leap forward as rectors from all countries gather to discuss the topic. At the virtual conference, arranged by Unifi at the Hanaholmen Cultural Center, university leaders from Nordic and Baltic countries come together for the first time around these timely themes.

The aim of the Nordic–Baltic Rectors’ Conference 2021 is to raise the visibility of the sustainability efforts undertaken by universities in the Nordic and Baltic countries, and to discuss circumstances which affect sustainability efforts in higher education. Furthermore, the conference will delve into the multiple and diverging roles played by the universities in today’s Nordic and Baltic societies, and how efforts to promote sustainable development resonate with those roles. We will meet in plenum and in smaller groups to discuss these issues and share experiences with our rector colleagues.

Universities as key players in building a responsible society

The sustainable development agenda, Agenda 2030, was approved by the UN General Assembly in September 2015. It includes global sustainable development goals and targets. The key role of HEIs in promoting sustainability has been emphasized by a multitude of actors, including the International Association of Universities (IAU), the European University Association (EUA) and UNESCO.

Universities are expected to

  • provide accessible, inclusive and affordable higher education and provide students with the knowledge and competencies needed to understand and tackle sustainability issues;
  • produce innovative solutions and develop a knowledge base for promoting sustainable development;
  • engage with a broad range of actors across society;
  • integrate sustainability into internal processes, thus mainstreaming sustainability into human resources, procurement, student administration, facility management, financial management etc.

Cooperation in sustainability can take many forms

The Nordic–Baltic Rectors’ Conference emphasizes the importance of partnerships and cooperation at the national, regional and global levels as well as dialogue and peer support if the sustainable development goals are to be achieved. Partnership, cooperation and exchange of best practices are also key to enhancing the sustainability impact of academia.

Such partnerships and cooperation can take many shapes and forms. In the Finnish context, our HEIs have co-formulated a set of joint sustainability theses , which hopefully give impetus to the strengthening of sustainability efforts within and by academia. On the conference day, we will learn more about similar efforts in each Nordic and Baltic country.

We warmly welcome all rectors to the event and are looking forward to lively, inspiring discussions.

Well met on May 12th!

Moira von Wright, NUS chair 2020–2021
Rector, Åbo Akademi University

Photo: Åbo Akademi image bank


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