Stellenbosch University
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Innovative online short course engages with real-life sustainability issues
Author: Corporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking
Published: 08/08/2023

​Stellenbosch University (SU) is once again hosting its innovative Future17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Challenge short course involving international students and global partners.

Students interested in learning about the key aspects of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to create a visible impact in their communities have until 13 August to apply for the course which runs from September to December this year. SU staff with PhDs can also apply to be academic mentors.

This is the fourth Future17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Challenge Literacy programme hosted by the SDG/2063 Impact Hub at SU. The first cohort finished in early June 2022, followed by a second offering in September and again in January 2023. The course encourages students from multiple disciplines to take part in real-life sustainability challenges with an industry partner, using the SDGs as a framework to create solutions.

What makes this three-month online course unique is that it involves universities from several countries, says Corina du Toit, Programme Manager: SDG/2063 Impact Hub and academic lead for the course. “The international aspect of the programme adds another dimension to the course, and exposes students to a truly multi-cultural, trans-disciplinary cohort and learning experience." ​ 

The course is copresented by the University of Exeter, United Kingdom, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, and a consortium of universities including SU, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, University of São Paulo (Brazil), Auckland University (NZ), the American University in Cairo (Egypt) and LUISS University in Rome (Italy).

 The industry Challenge Partners include nongovernmental organisations, institutions and companies that have conceptualised various sustainability challenges. These can range from creating a digital strategy to promote the SDGs to university students, doing market research for urban farms, or recycling soap from hotel chains to create jobs for communities.

 Students who have taken part in the course have found that in addition to the sustainability-related skills they acquired, they also learned intercultural communication as well as cross-cutting skills that will add to their employability. Some of the comments from students who have taken part in the short course include:

  • Providing solutions to a company that works with women who have been rescued from human trafficking was great. It gave me a sense of purpose, I felt like I was working directly with these women daily.
  • Exploring the project field was the most fascinating part, I enjoyed researching how we can use it to reduce healthcare inequalities and ensure equal access and outcome specially to marginalised societies. I enjoyed being part of positive change makers. I learnt how to think creatively and, most importantly, to be outspoken and make my voice heard. I also enjoyed working with people from all over the world – it was a wonderful experience.
  • It was valuable to learn to let go of what I thought was the correct way of doing things and to find a middle ground between all the other ideas in the group. I gained very broad exposure to edtech innovations, particularly in Africa, which was very inspiring.
  • The engagement and collaboration with team members from diverse backgrounds and countries to develop a solution in the fight against cholera in Malawi was an immensely gratifying experience. It brought together various ideas, expertise and perspectives, ensuring that the solution accounted for the specific needs of Malawians.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the entire course. I found the training prior to the course very useful, as it equipped me with useful knowledge that was essential in the group project phase. I really enjoyed the group that I was placed in, and our project was very interesting and helped expand my knowledge on different skill sets that I did not have prior to the Future17 SDG Challenge.