New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action

New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action


New postgraduate degree to put Paris Agreement into action

Plans are advancing at speed to create a new postgraduate degree specialising on the Paris Agreement on climate change in a bid to develop future leaders able to tackle the challenges of sustainability and advance transformative climate action, the UNESCO World Higher Education Conference (WHEC2022) in Barcelona, Spain, heard.
World Higher Education Conference 2022.
This conference is convened by UNESCO and University World News is the exclusive media partner.

Professor Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi, director of the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) in Tokyo, Japan, outlined the aims when opening the session at WHEC2022 on how higher education can accelerate climate action under the Paris Agreement.

She described the UNU-IAS, which she assumed leadership of in 2019, as a bridge between UN agencies and higher education, and told delegates to the Barcelona conference that work was progressing well on launching a new postgraduate degree on the Paris Agreement and climate sustainability, which was first mooted at COP26 (the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow.

First of its kind

“The degree will be the first of its kind in the world and the goal is to provide the skills needed across the world to teach action… to implement the Paris Agreement through higher education.”

Professor Yamaguchi said: “Our UNU institute in Tokyo is dedicated to realising a sustainable future for the people and our planet through policy-orientated research, education and capacity development focusing on sustainability, including looking at climate change and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The new postgraduate degree specialisation on the Paris Agreement on climate change is being developed in close collaboration with governments, leading universities and development partners and builds on an existing MSc in Sustainability and a PhD in Sustainability Science offered by UNU-IAS.

Together these two programmes currently have 38 students from 20 developing countries, with scholarships provided to over half of the students.

Develop future climate action leaders

“We are aiming to develop future leaders who will be at the forefront of the climate and sustainable development agenda,” said Yamaguchi, who announced that applications for the new Paris Agreement postgraduate degree will be invited at the end of 2022 and the programme will start in September 2023.

COP26 in Glasgow called on the world to keep the global increase in temperatures to 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial level, but to implement the measures requires a huge amount of knowledge and government cannot do everything, she said.

“You need large stakeholder coalitions to tackle issues such as phasing out coal and all parties acknowledge the importance of education about environment,” said Yamaguchi.

Transparency a key issue

Transparency, monitoring and accountability are going to be key issues for governments and businesses in meeting the Paris Agreement goals and higher education will play a key role, so people understand climate science.

“We need to develop dynamic training for experts, and coordination across sectors and institutions to collect and share data… and lack of coordination is a problem in many countries,” Yamaguchi told the conference.

Dr Won Jung Byun, programme specialist at UNESCO’s Section of Education for Sustainable Development, welcomed the new qualification from the United Nations University and told the conference that only half of national curricula worldwide mention climate change and fewer than 20% of teachers are able to explain action needed to tackle climate change.

Education systems around the world need to do much more to provide learners with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to overcome the climate crisis and sustainability challenges, she said.

Can’t just be left to higher education

But it can’t just be left to higher education, speakers at the session at the UNESCO conference stressed.

Laurent Cortese, deputy head of the Education-Vocational Training-Employment and Higher Education Division of the French Agency for Development, which mainly works in education and development in countries in Africa, said: “If we leave it to higher education, it is too late. We need a holistic approach and to work on environmental and climate issues with the rest of the education system.”

Teacher training is part of higher education in many countries, he pointed out, adding: “We need to ensure coordination between those in charge of higher education and education as a whole and show the importance of issues like climate change and biodiversity.”

Akio Takemoto, programme head at UNU-IAS in Tokyo, agreed it was important to start explaining the impact of climate change at the primary and school level and there was a need for innovative ways to provide a continuous and high-capacity educational system.

Need to look at all levels

“While there was a lot of talk about Masters degrees and PhDs, we also need highly skilled technical people and it is important we train engineers to work with these technicians. We have to look at all levels of higher education.”

Dr Kanako Morita, senior researcher at the Center for Biodiversity and Climate Change with the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Tsukuba, Japan, told the session: “Youth education is important, but so are other actors, including the companies and financial institutions and local government, who are keen to learn more about climate change. We need to consider education at all levels and social scientists have a big role to play.”

Produce ‘maestros’ to get message across

Cortese said the education system needed to produce “maestros” able to get the message across and with the capacity to handle the difficult questions on a scientific basis.

“We can help identify students who can participate in such programmes in the countries where we intervene. Too often, we all work among ourselves with people who we agree with, but that’s not always the most productive.

“We need to set up partnerships with people who don’t necessarily think the same way we do, [and] that would force students to examine their arguments and to review them.

“It is important to develop soft skills and to meet the needs of different people and not just work with university partnerships with the same outlook.

“We need to establish partnerships with companies, so people go outside their comfort zone and are prepared when they meet people who might not think as they do and who are able to see things in a different way.”


Nic Mitchell is a UK-based freelance journalist and PR consultant specialising in European and international higher education. He blogs at www.delacourcommunications.com.


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Deserts ‘breathe’ water vapor, study shows

Deserts ‘breathe’ water vapor, study shows

Cornell University in a research supported by Qatar Foundation concluded a study that holds that deserts ‘breathe’ water vapor. So what? Did we know that in the MENA region that is at more 90% desert?

Deserts ‘breathe’ water vapor, study shows

By David Nutt 

Deserts may seem lifeless and inert, but they are very much alive. Sand dunes, in particular, grow and move – and according to a decades-long research project, they also breathe humid air.

The findings show for the first time how water vapor penetrates powders and grains, and could have wide-ranging applications far beyond the desert – in pharmaceutical research, agriculture and food processing, as well as planetary exploration.

The team’s paper, “Water Vapor Transport Across an Arid Sand Surface – Non-Linear Thermal Coupling, Wind-Driven Pore Advection, Subsurface Waves, and Exchange with the Atmospheric Boundary Layer,” published March 21 in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface.

Deserts ‘breathe’ water vapor, study shows

Michel Louge
Michel Louge, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, pictured here in Qatar in 2012, has been using capacitance probes to study the moisture content in sand dunes since the early 2000s.

The project, led by lead author Michel Louge, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering, has spanned not only a great deal of time but also a variety of terrain. It began nearly 40 years ago when Louge was studying the behavior of fluids, gasses and solid particles.

Wanting to measure matter with greater sensitivity, he and his students developed a new form of instrumentation called capacitance probes, which use multiple sensors to record everything from solid concentration to velocity to water content, all with unprecedented spatial resolution.

When a colleague at the University of Utah suggested the technology might be helpful in imaging the layers of mountain snowpacks and assessing the likelihood of avalanches, Louge went to his garage, grabbed some probes and tested them out in a snowstorm. Soon he struck up a partnership with a company, Capacitec Inc, to combine their respective skills in geometry and electronics. The resulting probes also proved useful in hydrology research.

In the early 2000s, Louge began collaborating with Ahmed Ould el-Moctar from University of Nantes, France, to use the probes to study the moisture content in sand dunes to better understand the process by which agricultural lands turn to desert – an interest that has only become more urgent with the rise of global climate change.

“The future of the Earth, if we continue this way, is a desert,” Louge said.

Whereas other probes can measure large volumes of matter, Louge’s probes go deep and small, collecting data on a millimetric scale to pinpoint the exact amount of moisture in – and the density of – sand. To function in a new environment, though, the probes needed to be modified. And so began a decadelong process of trial and error, as Louge made periodic trips to deserts in Qatar and Mauritania experimenting with different versions of the probe.

The probe eventually revealed just how porous sand is, with a tiny amount of air seeping through it. Previous research had hinted this type of seepage existed in sand dunes, but no one had been able to prove it until now.

“The wind flows over the dune and as a result creates imbalances in the local pressure, which literally forces air to go into the sand and out of the sand. So the sand is breathing, like an organism breathes,” Louge said.

That “breathing” is what allows microbes to persist deep inside hyper-arid sand dunes, despite the high temperature. For much of the last decade, Louge has been collaborating with Anthony Hay, associate professor of microbiology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to study how microbes can help stabilize the dunes and prevent them from encroaching into roads and infrastructure.

Louge and his team also determined that desert surfaces exchange less moisture with the atmosphere than expected, and that water evaporation from individual sand grains behaves like a slow chemical reaction.

The bulk of their data was gathered in 2011, but it still took Louge and his collaborators another decade to make sense of some of the findings, such as identifying disturbances at the surface level that force evanescent, or nonlinear, waves of humidity to propagate downward through the dunes very quickly.

“We could have published the data 10 years ago to report the accuracy of our approach,” Louge said. “But it wasn’t satisfying until we understood what was going on. Nobody really had done anything like this before. This is the first time that such low levels of humidity could be measured.”

The researchers anticipate their probe will have a number of applications – from studying the way soils imbibe or drain water in agriculture, to calibrating satellite observations over deserts, to exploring extraterrestrial environments that may hold trace amounts of water. That wouldn’t be the first time Louge’s research made its way into space.

But perhaps the most immediate application is the detection of moisture contamination in pharmaceuticals. Since 2018, Louge has been collaborating with Merck to use the probes in continuous manufacturing, which is viewed as a faster, more efficient and less expensive system than batch manufacturing.

“If you want to do continuous manufacturing, you have to have probes that will allow you, as a function of time, and everywhere that’s important, to check that you have the right behavior of your process,” Louge said.

Co-authors include Ould el-Moctar; Jin Xu, Ph.D. ’14; and Alexandre Valance and Patrick Chasle with the University of Rennes, France.

The research was supported by the Qatar Foundation.

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Achieving SDG 4.7 by matching sustainability learning

Achieving SDG 4.7 by matching sustainability learning

Because achieving SDG 4.7 in any Sustainable development and mega infrastructure would not only be an achievement of significance but also a step in the leadership by example, it has to be passed down the generations.

Ron Johnston's avatar Ron Johnston, UNESCO, provides a guide to embedding education for sustainable development into university courses by linking it with the learning outcomes of the core subject being taught.

Achieving SDG 4.7 by matching sustainability learning outcomes to subject-specific curricula: a guide

Most curriculum designers work to a brief that is focused on knowledge transfer within the confines of a particular subject and emphasises subject-specific learning outcomes and assessment criteria.

Although curricula often include sustainability issues as discussion points, rarely does this contribute to achieving specified learning outcomes and fulfilment of assessment criteria. This dilutes the importance and effectiveness of education for sustainable development – SDG 4.7 – within a given curriculum.

Few demands are made of learners to contextualise sustainability issues in terms of the subject(s) being studied. Understandably, in a time delimited and possibly crowded curriculum focused on attaining qualifications, students and mentors will prioritise successful achievement of learning outcomes to the detriment of non-assessed education for sustainable development.

The strategies outlined here show how to embed learning outcomes linked to education for sustainable development alongside subject-knowledge learning outcomes. This achieves the twin goals of advancing SDG 4.7 while enhancing the depth of subject knowledge.

Guiding principles for embedding SDG 4.7 into curricula

Key topics such as “peace and conflict” or “global environmental change“, “social justice” and “gender equality” cannot be addressed from the perspective of a single subject. This means there is no single recipe for embedding education for sustainable development into curricula. Nevertheless, there are principles that may serve as a guiding framework.

  • Ensure sustainability issues are defined and discussed in local contexts, taking into account learners’ experiences and cultural identities while remaining connected with global impacts
  • Promote critical evaluation of sustainability issues from multiple viewpoints
  • Expand global and societal awareness by promoting whole-systems thinking
  • Encourage learner-centred research using growing subject-specific knowledge
  • Emphasise the interconnectedness and multivariate nature of SDG issues
  • Connect “issue-centric” education for sustainable development within course content and assessment frameworks.

Strategies and tools

Education for sustainable development aims to enable learners to engage with sustainability issues using the benefits of knowledge gained from all their learning experiences. The need for fully integrated curricula accommodating sustainability issues is clearly overdue. This requires a refocusing of priorities to achieve a truly multidisciplinary cross-curricular approach, in two steps:

1. Identify curriculum opportunities for embedding education for sustainable development.

2. Align education for sustainable development with core subject learning outcomes in curriculum.

Step 1: Mapping out opportunities for embedding education for sustainable development

Sustainability issues are identified as relevant themes, and the interconnectedness of their causes and impacts are aligned with relevant subject knowledge. This extends the acquisition of subject-specific knowledge into associated sustainability issues and allows for connection with relevant SDGs and enables cross-curricular multidisciplinary evaluation of the issues.

Achieving SDG 4.7 by matching sustainability learning
Mapping links between mandatory subject topics sustainability issues and intertwining these with sustainability issues and SDGs
Figure 1: Mapping links between mandatory subject topics sustainability issues and intertwining these with sustainability issues and SDGs

Figure 1 shows how curriculum design may take a thematic or issue-centric approach to a prescribed topic, for example genetic modification in a biology programme, to map out possibilities for matched learning outcomes to include and expand the scope of education for sustainable development within curriculum specifications.

Achieving SDG 4.7 by matching sustainability learning
Framework identifying potential for curriculum-led pairing of education for sustainable development and subject knowledge learning outcomes.
Figure 2: Framework identifying potential for curriculum-led pairing of education for sustainable development and subject knowledge learning outcomes

Figure 2 provides a similar approach to pre-planning and guiding curriculum-led integration of education for sustainable development and subject knowledge. The centre column shows links between prescribed curriculum topics and education for sustainable development issues in the context of “plastics in the environment, their manufacture and disposal”. The left-hand column identifies the negative aspects of plastics manufacture and use, whereas the right-hand column takes a positive approach in terms of actions that might be taken.

Step 2: Align education for sustainable development and core subject learning outcomes in curriculum design

Learning outcomes are closely associated with assessment, and assessment is closely associated with the value placed on key aspects of the subject by educators and learners. For effective curriculum-led education for sustainable development, it is important this is closely aligned with subject-specific learning outcomes.

Different subjects make different demands of curricula and provide different opportunities. The examples here are drawn from science programmes. However, these four overarching principles underpin good practice regardless of subject matter:

• Use “issue-centric” and thematic strategies to embed education for sustainable development and general curriculum linked learning outcomes and assessment strategies

• Create opportunities within the curriculum subject material for aligning subject-specific learning outcomes with education for sustainable development learnings outcome

• Include interdisciplinary links and share learning outcomes with other subjects (curricula) in a move towards a wider integrated curriculum that assesses sustainability issues concurrently with subject knowledge

• Create opportunities within the curriculum for student-led research linking subject knowledge with education for sustainable development issues associated with matched learning outcomes.

Achieving SDG 4.7 by matching sustainability learning
Matched education for sustainable development and subject knowledge LOs embedded within an example chemistry curriculum.
Table 1: Matched education for sustainable development and subject knowledge LOs embedded within an example chemistry curriculum

Table 1 demonstrates how this can be done in practice.

As students become more proficient in subject knowledge, they can apply this knowledge to research the issues in the context of their subject. Ideally, fully integrated curricula with matched learning outcomes allow for a multidisciplinary understanding of sustainability problems and foster the student’s ability to research potential solutions to these without detracting from acquiring essential subject knowledge.

Ron Johnston is an independent academic and research fellow focused on education for sustainable development, who co-authored the Unesco publication “Textbooks for sustainable development – a guide to embedding”. He is a former senior lecturer at the University of South Wales and retains close links with the University of Wales.

Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce sign strategic partnership

Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce sign strategic partnership

Qatar Foundation is a non-profit organization made up of more than 50 entities working in education, research, and community development. It is a state-led organization in Qatar, founded in 1995 by then emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his second wife Moza bint Nasser. Qatar Foundation (QF), chaired by Moza bint Nasser, has spearheaded Qatar’s endeavours to establish itself as a leader in education, science, and cultural development on both a regional and global scale. It is within these prerogatives that Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce sign strategic partnership.


Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce sign strategic partnership

Rolls-Royce and Qatar Foundation will enter into a long-term partnership to create a global centre for climate technology innovation.

Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce sign strategic partnership

As partners, Rolls-Royce and Qatar Foundation will develop two world-class campuses dedicated to launching, investing in and growing businesses that can accelerate the global energy transition.

The centre will help entrepreneurs create and grow new climate technology businesses, aided by academic leadership, funds for R&D and early-stage venture capital investment. Businesses will be able to use infrastructure on the campuses to test, prove and scale their technologies, enabling them to have a rapid impact. This integrated approach is a global first in climate technology.

Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce are ambitious in their vision for the centre and for the scale of investment and technological change it will create. To address the challenge of climate change, the world needs tangible, technology-driven businesses at a scale that matters. This centre is intended to create and scale-up businesses worth multi-billions of pounds.

Rolls-Royce and Qatar Foundation will work in partnership to build the campuses, generating up to 1,000 jobs in the centres, and at least 10,000 within the related start-up companies and broader ecosystem by 2040. A substantial investment pool will be created for venture funding at the scale needed to create global climate tech businesses with real impact and in anticipation that third-party investors will co-invest, with a target to grow up to 5 unicorns by 2030, and up to 20 by 2040, driving significant economic value for investment partners. (A “unicorn” is a privately held start-up company valued at over $1 billion).

This partnership will position Qatar among the top 5 countries globally investing in clean energy RD&D (in terms of spend per GDP) and as a pioneer within Small Advanced Economies. It is also in line with Qatar’s vision to further promote the state’s economic diversification, including legislative and commercial incentives to develop projects that preserve the environment and counter climate change.

Qatar Foundation will serve as the operating partner for Qatar, working with Rolls-Royce to establish and operate the innovation campuses by drawing on its expertise and experience in large-scale research and education collaborations. The project is forecast to generate as many as 1,300 new high-value jobs in Qatar by 2040, as well as new investment opportunities for Qatari businesses and investors via dedicated funding vehicles. 

This global centre will ensure innovation has a clear and practical route to market, whilst bringing together the key stakeholders and capabilities to create a fundamentally innovative way of developing climate tech businesses. The network will launch virtually in 2022, with campuses launching as early as 2023.

Warren East, Chief Executive, Rolls-Royce, said: “Rolls-Royce has pioneered power since its inception and we are already playing a key role in accelerating the energy transition in some of the hardest sectors to decarbonise. For us, the transition to net zero is both a societal imperative and an excellent commercial opportunity. This partnership with Qatar Foundation will enable us to accelerate progress in clean energy, including by allowing us to fully take advantage of nascent technologies that could have a significant impact on tackling climate change.”

Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, vice chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, said: “Today’s most pressing problems: climate change, soil restoration, water resources, animal welfare and human health are all inextricably linked. We stand ready to work together with our partners Rolls-Royce in developing innovative solutions and clean energy technologies. The expansion of Education City’s research ecosystem will inevitably further Qatar Foundation’s mission to pave the way to a better future.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This partnership fuses the outstanding British engineering of Rolls-Royce with the vision of the Qatar Foundation, confirming the UK’s position as a science superpower and hub for investment. This will not only strengthen ties between our two countries but will help facilitate the climate-tech innovations we need to tackle climate change headfirst, delivering green jobs and green growth.”

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Architectural professions top list of elite occupations

Architectural professions top list of elite occupations

Dezeen reports that in the United Kingdom architectural professions top the list of all elite occupations.
For millennia, humans make and build the most things in the world, but also contaminate it the most, as it is getting more and more obvious these latter days. Would this impact this article’s assertion if generalised to the rest of the world, mean that those privileged society elites are responsible for what we got now?

In any case, here is :

Architectural professions top list of elite occupations in the UK

By Lizzie Crook 

A report by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre has found that architecture is among the most privileged industries in the UK.

The report, titled Social Mobility in the Creative Economy, reveals that 73 per cent of workers in the architecture industry are classed as privileged.

This means architectural careers such as architects, town planning officers and technicians rank as number one in the study’s list of the 25 most elite occupations in the UK.

The report also found that class-based exclusion is more prominent in the creative industries than in other sectors of the economy, with other creative occupations ranking in the top 25 including artists, journalists and musicians.

Architecture sector “dominated by the privileged”

“Creative occupations such as architects; journalists and editors; musicians; artists; and producers and directors are, in fact, as dominated by the privileged as doctors, dentists, lawyers and judges,” the report states.

“They are even more elite than management consultants and stockbrokers.”

The report also found that in 2020, those from privileged backgrounds were twice as likely to be employed in the creative industries as those from working-class backgrounds (9.8 per cent and 4.9 per cent respectively.)

Figure 2.3 from the Social Mobility in the Creative Economy report
A graphic from the report revealing architecture as the most privileged industry, courtesy of the PEC and Green-Doe Graphic Design

The Social Mobility in the Creative Economy report was carried out by Heather Carey, Dave O’Brien and Olivia Gable as part of a three-year programme led by the Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) exploring class in the creative industries.

The statistics draw on a Labour Force Survey from July to September 2020. These surveys are carried out quarterly by the Office for National Statistics to record the UK population’s employment circumstances.

In the report, privilege is defined as people who had at least one parent who worked in a “higher or lower managerial, administrative or professional occupation” when they were 14 years old.

This references the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC), which clusters various occupations together into eight groups. The report considers those who belong to groups I or II, which includes doctors, CEOs and lawyers, to be privileged.

One in four creative roles filled by working class people

The report also states that in 2020 just one in four people working in the creative industries sector were from lower socio-economic backgrounds and this has remained largely unchanged since 2014.

This means that the UK’s creative industries would need to employ 250,000 more working-class people to become as socio-economically diverse as the rest of the economy.

A graphic showing the difference in socio-economic diversity between the creative industries and the rest of the economy 

“To put this figure in perspective, this deficit is greater in scale than the size of the creative workforce in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined,” the report states.

As such, the authors of the report have also called on the government and industry to adopt a 10-point plan to establish a socially inclusive creative economy.

Recommendations include prioritising creating fair foundations for success and widening access to higher education, eliminating unpaid internships and accelerating the progression of diverse talent.

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