The initiative, launched in January 2022 by the University of Exeter and Quacquarelli Symonds, aims to connect students from various universities around the world and help them develop solutions to address 21st-century global challenges.
“We were looking to deepen our impact on young people around the world,” QS’s founder, Nunzio Quacquarelli, told The PIE News in an interview.
“We found that we could use our university network to reach young people and to inspire them, to train them and to reward them for making an impact on the Sustainable Development Goals,” he stressed.
“We’ve seen the growing importance of [active] experiential learning in successful pedagogy.”
Together with deputy vice-chancellor (Education) at the University of Exeter Tim Quine, the QS founder agreed on designing “a program that could bring experiential learning through virtual SDGs projects”.
“[We created a] multi-university program where students of different backgrounds and cultures could come together and learn in teams so that they are not just learning about the SDGs but then learning about working in teams, learning about multicultural context, [and] really develop 21st-century skills,” he said.
“This program presents an excellent opportunity for students to solve real-life problems”
The program’s online induction course introduces students to the SDGs and the design thinking needed to solve sustainability challenges. Then, the university students are divided into teams of 6-8 students with each group assigned to different projects that touch on major challenges. Later, each team is required to showcase its project online.
The spring 2022 pilot saw the participation of 30 mentors and 116 students from four universities.
QS and the University of Exeter collaborated with Stellenbosch University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the University of Sao Paulo in order to have a “broad geographical coverage to really demonstrate the global multicultural nature of this program”, Quacquarelli explained.
“This program presents an excellent opportunity for students to work with an international team and organisations to solve real-life problems,” said Alan Chan, provost professor at CUHK – the latest institution to join the initiative.
It is hoped that students “will not only gain valuable experience and acquire new skills but also become future champions of sustainable development”, he said.
Amos Tai, associate director of CUHK’s Office of University General Education, elaborated that “through the program, the students have learned the complex nature of real-world sustainability issues, and realised the necessity to join forces in order to find practical solutions”.
“We had a very, very strong positive feedback loop from the academic community involved in the program,” Quacquarelli concluded.
Future17 is expanding with new leading universities soon joining the program, QS added.