How students, teachers and society can learn from each other for a sustainable future

In short: new perspectives, it is inspiring and fun to get fresh input from younger people with backgrounds different from ours.

Society faces a host of complex sustainability challenges that require new ways of thinking and acting. This also applies to universities, which must adapt to and take the lead in addressing global change, inequality and an uncertain future.

What did the collaboration entail?

Final-year undergraduate students of the Global Sustainability programme at Utrecht University and participate in the course The Consultancy Project. During this course, they research and answer in groups a question posed by an employee of an external organisation. This time, the questions were from Nationaal Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug, Maacq Oase and

Purpose of collaboration in education

Why do these diverse organisations want to work with students in the first place? In short: new perspectives, says Lotte Holterman, of Maacq Oasis. It is inspiring and fun to get fresh input from younger people with backgrounds different from our own. Vincent de Leijster, of, agrees. We were attracted to working with students because of their diversity of interests and educational backgrounds, but especially their enthusiasm. This generation of students has a lot to deal with, Holterman continues. They have grown up in an incredibly complicated time with many different social and ecological issues. We notice a great awareness of these issues and at the same time a lot of energy and perseverance to do something about them. We think it is of great importance and value to engage this generation in developing solutions to the issues we face.

Each organisation had its own goal in mind, which they wanted to achieve by presenting the issue to students:

It’s sometimes hard to let go of micro-managing, but most of the time the students do an awesome job when you give them the trust and space they need.

Jeroen Heemsbergen, Nationaal Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug

(Intended) result

Nationaal Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug was advised by their group of students to develop an integral starting point map that encourages visitors to travel by means other than by car, or to park in designated areas outside nature reserves. We are integrating this advice into an international EU-project proposal on sustainable mobility within natural areas, Heemsbergen said.

For Maacq Oase, the students' research has taken the project to the next level, but also pointed out the complications they need to consider. We have been able to create a solid multi-year plan to get Maacq Oasis off the ground - or rather on the ground, says Holterman. The idea is to include a fund where profits will be used to fund even more scientific research and ecological projects.

At they are also pleased with the result. By being in the field with the students and farmers and sharing our insights from different perspectives, I think all involved learned new things says De Leijster.

Collaborating party on behalf of UU

Final-year undergraduate students of the Global Sustainability programme

Collaborating external party

Nationaal Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug, Maacq Oase and