The World has Problems While Universities have Disciplines: Universities Meeting the Challenge of Environment through Interdisciplinary Partnerships

By Gordon Wilson.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Some issues, like environmental change, are perceived to be so important that they create a thirst for knowledge among citizens and professionals to understand and ultimately act. This thirst is, moreover, global in nature as the issues usually span national borders.
It is incumbent on Universities, whose missions by definition concern knowledge, to engage in teaching and learning on such issues in order to build the capacities of citizens and professionals. Designing environment curriculum to meet the needs and demands of students requires, however, putting the subject at the centre of study. This emphasis on the issue – environment – potentially creates a tension with the usual discipline-centred foci of curriculum, while further challenges concern maintaining rigour and the capability of the Universities to be flexible and predictive. At root is the ability of Universities to address major global issues.
The global nature of the environmental challenge and the need for interdisciplinary approaches to its curriculum, also present, however, an opportunity for Universities to work together in partnership, drawing on their respective, usually disciplinary, strengths. In this scenario the necessary interdisciplinarity, as a pre-condition for relevant curriculum, comes through scholarly working together at the respective disciplinary interfaces to create world-class teaching and learning to address a global challenge.

Keywords: Environment Curriculum, Capacity Building, Active Citizens, Professional Expertise, Interdisciplinarity, University Partnerships

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.57-62. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.107MB).

Prof. Gordon Wilson

Director of Environment, Development and International Studies, Design, Development, Engineering & Materials, Maths, Computing and Technology, The Open University, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, UK

Doctor Gordon Wilson is Director of the inter-faculty Environment, Development and International Studies curriculum area at the UK Open University. He is a strong proponent of interdisciplinary approaches to scholarship. His research interests include social learning and knowledge construction in international development partnerships and the role of science and technology in international development. Current projects include developing pan-European Masters dissertations in the area of lived experience of climate change, developing a global Masters qualification in sustainable development in partnership with other Higher Education institutions internationally, and research into knowledge construction within city-to-city partnerships.


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