In the past year, Thammasat University became more aware of sustainable development goals (SDGs) because the Time Higher Education University Impact Ranking which used SDGs as a main work framework caused many universities to coordinate with SDG Move for consultation and workshop meetings. The aforementioned trend is a good opportunity to push for this impact ranking to be more than a ranking game and lead to a true transformation/reinvention of the university.
Assoc. Prof. Chon Bunnak, Director of SDG Move and a professor at the Faculty of Economics, Thammasat University, said that academic institutions can use and apply SDGs and related principles in the following four areas:
- Research – Issues under SDGs are related to most research questions of professors in the faculty. However, if research is to be transformed to answer SDG questions, the research would have to shift from academic work solely aimed at expanding academic borders to increasing benefits in driving SDGs or solving sustainability problems. For the most transformation, a transdisciplinary approach should be used in research by having academics from multiple fields of science and knowledge user groups co-produce knowledge to push academic borders and create change.
- 2. Education – The subjects of many faculties are linked to issues under SDGs. Connecting course subjects to SDGs is an easy way to tell us that we’ve achieved SDGs. To really transform, however, subject content should be added to the global or national crisis issues such as inequality, climate change, biodiversity or waste management, etc. And if the university is to full transform, subjects should include competencies in sustainable development that will support students to change the world with sustainability.
- Internal Management – Many universities have taken action concerning environmental sustainability at universities and campuses. However, transformation toward SDGs requires consideration of social welfare for vulnerable people in the university, rights, freedom and equality of people of every group, gender, religion and political opinion by making clear policies that give importance to human rights.
- Participation with Social Movements – The university cannot stay only in the university’s world. The university should participate in driving society toward sustainable development. The university is currently involved in local movements or solving problems consistent with government policies and strategies. If the university is to move toward transformation, the university should be more than a “government agency” that follows the government’s policy and strategy. The university has to function as “society’s intelligence”. The university can and does well at following the government’s policies. At the same time, however, the university must be the “intelligence” of those movements while having academic ethics to make criticisms based on academic principles if the university finds the government’s actions to be incorrect.
“If every university, every faculty and every professor studies the end goal of SDGs, including our roles, duties and capacity, to drive and support movements along with taking action by communicating to connect and empower, the university will become a significant driving force in sustainable development goals at every level as the main force of the academic sector”, Assoc. Prof. Chon Bunnak concluded.