Finland state

Training tomorrow’s sustainability leaders – for Finland and beyond

Una Europa brings together 11 European universities to co-create and build the university of the future. Part of this is developing joint educational initiatives, one of the most recent initiatives being the Una Europa joint micro-certificate in sustainability. The aim is to recognize the complexity and interdependence of the issue with an interdisciplinary, creative and multifaceted approach.

But what is a microaccreditation program? Laura Riuttanen, university lecturer in atmospheric sciences and academic manager of the Una Europa microcredit in sustainable development, explains:

“A micro-certificate is a new continuing education format currently being developed in the EU. The basic idea is that the world is changing rapidly and to keep pace we all need to be continuous learners. It’s not enough that you study for a degree in your twenties and then work the same until you retire. We all need to update our knowledge and micro-certificates offer a flexible way to learn continuously. »

The Una Europa Microcredit in Sustainability specifically allows learners to study five different MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) introducing them to sustainability, biodiversity, climate change, political economy and the arts. The courses are co-created by the University of Helsinki, the University of Bologna and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

Flexible and open learning is key to solving the sustainability challenges we face today. Not everyone will study to become experts in the science of sustainable development; but we all need to have basic sustainability knowledge to collectively drive change. It is also not enough to only prepare Finnish students for this transition, we must work together to ensure access to this knowledge worldwide. Una Europa has made it possible to engage with new partners to broaden this objective of sustainable literacy for all.

Maciej Grodzicki is associate professor and economist at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. He worked within the team on the micro-degree program to add perspectives for learners to question and critically assess the state and structure of our economic and societal models.

“We tend to treat the economy as something that’s just part and parcel of society. My colleagues and I take a much broader view. We don’t treat economics in a technocratic way, we see it as a social process, where different groups fight against each other to achieve collective action. This includes social movements, climate movements, different communities, indigenous movements, etc. This struggle is vital for the way economies are organized but also for the way it interacts with the environment and integrates more broadly into the environment.

Francesco Spampinato is Associate Professor in the Department of Arts and Contemporary Art History at the University of Bologna and led the MOOC’s work on sustainability and the arts. While it’s not hard to see how our political and economic systems influence our work toward more sustainable communities, how does art play a role?

“The arts help us see things in new ways, they trigger different reactions, and they can help us understand our past and our present and bring new visions of the future. People don’t think artists are supposed to come up with solutions. However, sometimes artists, filmmakers, architects have this visionary approach, they speculate on the future. This is important because it foreshadows possible scenarios that can activate people in government, activate people to change, take a stand and imagine new forms of societal transformations. The solutions are on the one hand purely speculative, visionary and futuristic and on the other very practical, they can become functional to achieve this change.

Working together across borders, disciplines and cultures allows us to accelerate the impact and reach of our research and education. This is essential to ensure a viable future for all. Basic knowledge on sustainability issues needs to be mainstreamed and standardized for the general public. As Laura Riuttanen argues:

“I find that education is really the way to transform societies. In our universities, we teach thousands of students every year. If we combine the knowledge from universities with the power to educate those thousands of students, universities could truly be the engine of lasting transformation, especially if we join forces.