Brunel University London, United Kingdom

Highly Commended

Crossing borders to dismantle the boundary stones

In the face of the emergent climate crisis, Brunel University London committed to the development of cross-institutional undergraduate provision which would allow for the evolution of thematically organised provision – deliberately disrupting traditional disciplinary silos.

The intention was to develop graduates who can think more systemically, and flexibly develop and exercise the sort of cognitive agility needed to investigate, analyse, and respond to complex societal and global challenges in ways that exceed the framing provided by approaching an issue from a single or prescribed set of disciplines.

The result was the BASc Global Challenges trans-disciplinary programme, which has four distinct pathways (Planetary Health, Security, Social Cohesion and Global Innovation) and core elements through which the principles of education for sustainable development run deep. It has required the support and investment of all three Colleges of the university, demonstrating institutional commitment to addressing the climate crisis through educating the next generation of leaders for sustainable development. It currently has around 75 students enrolled on the programme after 4 years of running.

What the Judges Thought

A very innovative program that has all the elements of quality ESD. It is clear that the focus is on delivering quality over quantity, creating deep, transformational engagement with sustainability.

The project promotes cross-disciplinary, multicultural sustainability education, benefitting students, the institution and the wider community both nationally and internationally.

The benefits are clear and evident from the application. The testimonials really helped showcase the impacts of the programme. We also loved the international partnerships which were delivered digitally.

We’d like to see how this program fits within a whole-organisation approach and are excited to see how the program develops in future. 

What it Means to Win

"Brunel's programme is a step change in university provision, and this award is important recognition of our pioneering work. Our flagship programme plays a crucial role in disseminating trans-disciplinary problem-solving skills across HE, ensuring our diverse student body is acutely aware of the existential threats the planet faces."

Professor Andrew Jones, Vice Chancellor and President

Top 3 Learnings

  1. Start your thinking in the middle of the challenge, not the middle of a discipline.
  2. Embrace discomfort: working across disciplines is like learning a new language, mistakes are growing points.
  3. There is never a collaborative situation in which we can communicate too much.
3 - Good Health and Well-Being 4 - Quality Education 9 - Industry Innovation and Infrastructure 13 - Climate Action
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