Addressing the Sustainable Development Goals at Utrecht University

Utrecht University is working towards a better world. As stated in its recently published Strategic Plan 2025, Utrecht University treats the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as major guiding principles and places them at the heart of its operations and ambitions. When it comes to solving the problems of the world, Utrecht University strives to give direction to necessary transformations and thus aligns research and teaching efforts with today’s global challenges.

This ambition resembles with the mission of the Centre for Global Challenges (UGlobe). UGlobe emphasises the increasing interconnectedness of universal issues in an era of rapid globalisation. In order to respond to the new complex dynamics emerging from this a focus on system transformation is needed. This entails questioning the very assumptions on which modern society is built, breaking down silos and enabling collaboration and experimentation amongst actors relevant in change processes, including scientists, students, practitioners and citizens. Transformation requires spaces in which common practices can be challenged and an open participatory creative learning process is facilitated. UGlobe aims to provide such a space and explores potential frameworks for the “university of the future” – one that contributes to transformative change.

SDG related research

In a new research project, UGlobe, in collaboration with the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, strives to unlock the transformative potential of Utrecht University research for addressing the Sustainable Development Goals.

The study shows that UU's research efforts on the SDGs have grown rapidly in the period after 2000. The university covers all SDGs, but there are focal points of research around health and well-being (SDG 3), climate change (SDG 13), and clean water and sanitation (SDG 6). Compared to the national trend, Utrecht University is particularly strong in research related to SDG 13 which focuses on the needs of developing countries in the transition to a low-carbon economy to mitigate the effects of climate change. The analyses show that there are many interactions between different research groups with an SDG focus and with groups doing other research.

The study uses a new methodology developed by the research team that focuses on the need for research to contribute to a transition or systemic change of the economy and society. Schot: "This requires research that relates the SDGs to each other. This type of interdisciplinary research in which links are made between research into the development of new forms of energy, mobility, water, food, health provision, research aimed at reducing poverty, inequality, improving biodiversity, and climate and research into conditions under which the transition can take place is present at the UU but can still be strengthened."

A session to discuss the results of the project will be held in the coming weeks, please register your interest by contacting Louisa King via L.King@uu.nl; the date will also be publicised closer to the time.