Speaking at the UN, Global University Systems Canada CEO, Cyndi McLeod, noted that in order to build a sustainable and inclusive future, accessible and industry relevant qualifications will be needed.
Some 4,600 Latin American students are enrolled in GUS universities and colleges in Canada, she said, adding that Canada and Ibero-America have “much in common”.
“The Canadian higher education system is uniquely positioned to collaborate with regional stakeholders, empower and build sustainable communities through green economic development, entrepreneurship and harnessing the incredible talent of youth and local people,” McLeod explained.
The two regions both have a “rich cultural diversity, an abundance of natural resources, cultural and heritage tourism and have been at the front of global sustainability discussions for a long time”.
“Canada’s higher education has a pivotal role in advancing several of the UN’s SDGs, specifically in Ibero-America, building curriculum to support sustainable agriculture practices, ecotourism, fair trade and academic programs and research that focus on a circular economy,” she said.
GUS, which acquired FutureLearn in late 2022, has partnered with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning to provide free access to online courses on sustainable development issues.
The project is hoping to reach 100,000 lifelong learners in 292 UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities in 76 countries.
Former UK universities minister, Jo Johnson, who joined FutureLearn as chairman during the GUS takeover, said that over the next 24 months, participants will “have access to a curated collection of online short courses from leading British and global universities, all focused on the themes of ‘sustainability’ and ‘climate change’”.
“Sustainability education is only as impactful as the people that can access it”
“This invaluable opportunity comes at no cost to learners, and seeks to elevate sustainability and climate awareness within learning cities and their respective countries,” he said.
Announcing the project at the UN, GUS chief impact officer, Yuliya Etingen, stated that for students to be empowered to become catalysts of positive change, “education systems around the world need to include foundational sustainability knowledge”.
“Sustainability education is only as impactful as the people that can access it,” Etingen said. “This is why partnerships between the public and private sector are crucial. Collaboration between NGOs, education and tech companies are the future to making this dream a reality.
“By offering free climate change courses in 292 cities around the world, residents will be able to study for absolutely free, from Bogota to Hamburg to Beijing and they can learn how they can make a difference in their community.”
“Sustainability is a global imperative that necessitates a collaborative, inclusive and intersectional approach,” McLeod concluded. “It is up to us as leaders to harness these strengths for a greater good and it is essential that we recognise the UN’s SDGs not merely as aspirational but that they serve as a roadmap for a better world for all.”