Transitions to Low Carbon Living

Category: Universities (Page 1 of 2)

The Ekoln Letter: A conversation about universities in the era of climate change

In May 2020 the plan had been to bring together at Lake Ekoln in Sweden, a group of people who are all, in their own way, interested in the question of how we might rethink universities in the era of climate change. Some were professors working in universities, some were leading activists, some were doctoral students exploring the frontiers of new thinking, some were artists and facilitators of public conversations; some see themselves as educators others as climate researchers and others resist definition. We had hoped to go deep into the questions of what a university is, could be, can’t be and should be in a world of profound ecological harm and inequality. 

And then we know what happened next. The pandemic hit, borders were closed, and we were left, like the rest of the world, to work out what to do instead. In place of a three day conversation that had been intended to be as slow, as embodied and as reflective as possible to allow us to really learn from each other, we met online to speak in the strange flat world of the video conference. For none of us was this enough, and so the project you have in your hands (or on the screen) was born: a letter exchange, where each of us would write to one other in response to an initial prompt, attempting to speak honestly about our sense of where ‘the university’ might go in this era of profound change. The letter exchange lasted four months, a week at a time or more for each person, through the long summer of 2020 when all were navigating a new reality. The pieces were not written for publication, they are not polished, none have been edited, they were intended only for the recipient. On completion, however, we wondered if there was enough here potentially to be of interest to others exploring the same questions. 

So we share these letters with you, as an echo of a conversation that could have happened and as perhaps the beginning of different conversations, negotiations, collective experimentation with how universities might be otherwise. 

Feel free to write back and to join in, or to carry on and take this further.

New report calls for the radical restructuring of universities in era of climate change

What is required of universities in face of climate change? Read the new HEPI report by Keri Facer to find out!

Zennström Professor Keri Facer has called for the radical restructuring of Higher education and universities in response to climate change. You can read more on the website of the Higher Education Policy Institute. Or download the report here:


For more explorations and discussions regarding the role of the university in a changing climate, explore our work here.

Education, Universities and Climate Change

This is a set of quick links to some of our work on Universities, Schools, Education in general and Climate Change

Universities and Climate Change

Zennström Professor Keri Facer’s Inaugural Lecture on ‘Learning to live with a lively planet: renewing the mission of the research university’

A report from the Initiative on Internationalisation and Sustainability – is it possible to square these two agendas?

A keynote from Keri Facer on Universities and the SDGs to the Transforming Higher Education for the Future (IAU) Conference in Puebla, Mexico, November 2019

A public debate on cities and climate change, with Richard Florida, at KTH Stockholm. Keri joined the panel to reflect on the climate implications of Florida’s proposals.

A public debate on universities and climate change – at Almedalen, with Professor Keri Facer, the Minister for Higher Education Matilda Ernkrans, Uppsala University Vice Chancellor Professor Eva Åkesson and the lead for Sweden’s Environment agenda, Dr Emma Nohrén.

A public debate on the role of science, industry and government in addressing climate change.

In Swedish – Universitetens roll för en hållbar värld – a public debate at Almedalen with Uppsala universitet, SLU, Karolinska institutet, Stockholms universitet, Handelshögskolan i Stockholm, KTH

What are the links beteween climate change and civic university agendas? A short post for the UK’s Higher Education Policy Institute

University Innovation Agendas – AIM Days and climate change – a report from Laila Mendy.

What sort of knowledge do we need to think about long term futures? Science and Futures in Government. A talk by Dr Claire Craig.

Are universities making the world worse? Education and research in an age of climate change . A panel discussion from Almedalen 2017 with Kevin Anderson, Josefin Wangel Weithz, and Johanna van Schaik Dernfalk.

General Education and Climate Change

A report from the Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures programme, led by Professor Keri Facer, which makes recommendations on Education and Climate Change

Four-part interview with Keri Facer, on the role of the future, the richness of the meanwhile, and desirable futures at the Constructing Social Futures Conference 2019 for Futuuri magazine. June 2019.

Education, Sustainable Development and the Challenges of Climate Change . CEMUS Spring Semester Introduction lecture 2016 with Professor Doreen Stabinsky.

Popular and Public Education

A report on the important role of transformative public education – public, dialogic, collaborative, transgressive – in addressing Covid-19, with implications also for climate change.

A report on a Legacy 17 workshop – a popular education strategy for addressing questions of sustainability.

Leading activity within Uppsala University

We have been working over the last year with the 2050 plan for the University Campus, supporting long term thinking about the link between climate change and university campuses. This includes events and consultation workshops.

Sustainability Talk on Campus Gotland, Uppsala University by Keri Facer. Building a University for the Common Good. March 2019.

2018 – 2020: What have we been up to?

In this report we summarise the activities of professor Keri Facer, the third Zennström professor of Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University. This report is written in English.

I denna rapport sammanfattar vi aktiviteterna under perioden 2018 – 2020 med professor Keri Facer, den tredje Zennström professorn i klimatledarskap vid Uppsala universitet. Denna rapport är skriven på engelska.


Transforming Public Education in a time of COVID-19

Follow this new network ‘Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures’ with which Zennström Professor Keri Facer is involved! Keep an eye out for postings soon about transformative public education in context of CV-19. 

Here is the first briefing paper on The Case for Transformative Public Education with leading contribution from Professor Facer. This paper focuses on responding to COVID-19 now while addressing long-term underlying inequalities.

Keri Facer: Reconnecting the civic university with the climate agenda

Blog post by Zennström Professor Keri Facer on the Higher Education Policy Institute addressing the UPP Foundation Civic University Commission’s recent report on how universities can successfully serve in the 21st century. Climate change was a glaring omission in this report, as Keri writes.

Read post here: https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2020/03/04/reconnecting-the-civic-university-with-the-climate-agenda-thinking-globally-acting-locally/

Legacy 17: Learning For Change

A month ago, I had the opportunity to join in a two day workshop in Kollaboratoriet, Uppsala on Learning For Change. A small group of passionate individuals joined me in an emotional and challenging exploration to understand how we work as individuals and in the collective, towards our goals of sustainability. You can read more about Legacy 17 here.

I went with the conservative expectation of a workshop on how to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals in to one’s work. It was a pleasant surprise to be met with emotional and personalised approaches to understanding how we engage with sustainability, particularly in terms of structuring meetings, of deep listening, of celebrating achievements and humility, of mentoring speakers, and of reflecting as groups. In short, an emotionally reflective workshop on processes for working with sustainability. The culmination of which was a group largely made up of strangers, volunteering highly personal information and feeling confident enough in each other to share vulnerabilities.

The conclusions of this workshop are still ongoing, with the participants divided in to small groups to catch up over fika or through skype/ zoom periodically; we continue to work on using the Learning For Change process to strengthen our capacities in work with sustainability.

You can read more about these processes in the Learning For Change Handbook.

Do you want to influence the sustainable development of UU’s physical milieu?

Welcome to an open workshop organised by CEFO!

On the 18th of Feb at 10.00 sharp, staff and students of UU are very welcome to a workshop about the UU development plan 2050. In this workshop we will work together in order to give input to the sustainability aspects of Uppsala University’s development plan. The output from the workshop will be treated as a submission for comment (sv: remiss-svar) by the development plan’s project team. For more information see attached flyer and the sustainability part of the ‘remiss-version’ of the plan (or you can find the entire plan here).

When:              18th February 2020

Where:             CEMUS Library, (Villavägen 16, Earth Sciences Dept.)

Time:               10.00 (sharp) – 12.00

Registration:    https://forms.gle/5Y2xd6sooXreS3qD9

Arranged by:    Cemus research forum

Report: Internationalisation and Sustainability at Universities

The report below provides a brief overview of some of our work in the Zennström Climate Change Leadership Initiative exploring the relationship between internationalisation and sustainability agendas in the contemporary university. It reports on a short programme of desk research by the team and a workshop bringing together university leadership, students, faculty and administrative staff. It identifies key tensions, possibilities, and routes towards achieving more sustainable internationalisation strategies in universities. The report has been compiled rapidly to respond to current debates and is intended as the basis for wider discussion. We are keen to hear from colleagues elsewhere to help develop these ideas further.  

AIM Day and Climate Change

In the middle of October, I joined in the AIM Day at Uppsala University, organised by the university Innovation Team. This day is an opening up of the university to businesses and institutions who want to pick at difficult questions with researchers. This year’s theme was Hållbara Städer (Sustainable Cities). This year it was in Swedish, and with my limited language abilities (disclaimer: I therefore might have missed some important points to many of the discussions), I joined in on some of their workshops.

Overall this day was an enlightening experience, where the necessity for transdisciplinary approaches to tricky questions, and collaborations across universities, civil society and public institutions, was abundantly clear. However, as a representative of the Climate Change Leadership Initiative (CCL), it was disappointing to see that the discussions did not want to grapple with the elephant in the room: the added complexity of climate change (and biodiversity loss) to social sustainability and development questions.

The first question I attended was one that struck at the core of a project CCL is working on at the moment: “Hur bygger vi tillit och vågar vi ta tillvara kraften i initiativ som vilar på religiös eller kulturell grund och möjliggör för olika sorters drivkrafter för ett områdes utveckling?” (How do we build trust and courage to harness power of initiatives driven by cultural or religious grounds? And that enable different kinds of driving forces for an area’s development?) posed by representatives of the Kommun. Joining me in this meeting were researchers from Centrum för forskning om religion och samhälle (CRS) , as well as employees of Upplandsidrottsförbund. It was positive to hear that this was being considered, in particular concerning a suburb of Uppsala that we are interested in working with.

“Hur kan konst bidra till att stärka identitet och skapa gemensamma rum i stadsmiljön och hur sker konstnärlig medverkan på bästa sätt genom hela planerings- och byggnadsprocessen?” (How can art help to strengthen identity and create common spaces in the urban environment? And how does artistic participation take place in the best way throughout the planning and building process?) posed by Region Gotland, was the second workshop I attended. Having very recently organised an interactive and artistic process in collaboration with Uppsala Art Museum, which was designed to enable residents of the city to explore how we think about the space of the non-human in urban environments, I was particularly excited by this discussion. Sadly, there did not seem to be shared interest in the role that the arts can play with the idea of the urban as a space for wilderness and other species. Though the conversation was fascinating in that we covered the role of graffiti to shape identities of the space and its residents, a very important facet I had not previously considered, it was disappointing that the conversation could not include how we might use artistic process and design to stretch the possibilities of urban space in times of climate change. This discussion highlights CCL’s concerns that processes of urban development continue to neglect the role of the city in mitigating species extinction and adapting to climate change.

The final two workshops I attended were similar discussions on social innovation and meeting spaces. The first, chaired by Coompanion Uppsala Län, wanted to discuss “Stödsystem för social innovation, särskilt inom hållbar stadsutveckling” (Support systems for social innovation, particularly within sustainable city development). The latter, chaired by Uppsalahem, covered “Sociala investeringsprojekt för barn och unga (Mötesplats Gottsunda)” (Social investment projects for children and youth (Meeting Place Gottsunda). By this point, my Swedish was fairly exhausted and my contributions to the discussion were in english. Our discussions touched upon vulnerable groups across the cities and regions and who should be the targets for support systems (could they be non-Swedish speakers?), neglect and social segregation were repeated here, and we were fairly stuck on the meaning of social innovation at points. A shining star from this discussion came from Idrottsförbundet who work closely in Gottsunda, and recounted an experience of engaging with women residents of the area. She told us that she was trying to understand what types of sports opportunities women living in Gottsunda wanted. She reached out to several contacts who then sent out a mass whatsapp message. Expecting only a handful of people to turn up, she was overwhelmed by the interest when 60 people joined the discussion. Looking at their feedback (which was largely written in Arabic), she found that generally residents did not want to attend meetings to discuss types of sports, but rather were happy to be messaged through this channel and told when and where dance classes or swimming opportunities, or other events, would occur. Understanding the different methods of engagement with different localities of Uppsala city is crucial for CCL’s work with civil society.

Over all AIM day was great fun. It was wonderful to meet so many colleagues working in similar areas of democracy and development. What struck me, though, was that we are not thinking strategically about climate change in all of these challenges. Trends of privatisation, or art and urban development, and (disrupted) investments in social innovation projects are turbulent and challenging changes. With the added complexity of climate change, and our responsibilities to act upon it, we must include strategic ways of engaging with these problems. I look forward to attending AIM Days in the future and continuing to be a thorn in the side of these discussions.

Building a University for the Common Good? Addressing Climate Change Together

Addressing climate change will require partnerships across all sectors of society. This is a film of Keri’s workshop on Campus Gotland exploring how universities and communities might work together to address climate change.

It draws on Keri’s work as Leadership Fellow for the Connected Communities Programme which was a six-year-long programme of collaboration between academics and partners outside the university – local government, industry, charities, voluntary sector groups with over 300 projects across the UK. The main findings from this programme are here alongside a series of literature reviews providing surveys of the main approaches to co-production.

Another project – looking at how universities are failing to engage with and learn from minority ethnic communities – has produced a report and a set of important principles and guidance for universities seeking to create more diverse partnerships and collaborations.

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