Dr Jennifer O’Brien, awarded Higher Education and the SDGs Challenge Grant

Dr Jennifer O’Brien, SEED,  Academic Lead for Sustainability Teaching and Learning, and Sustainable Futures Challenge Lead for Inspired and Informed Futures, has been awarded a Higher Education and the SDGs Challenge Grant by the Association of Common Wealth Universities.  Five grants were awarded bringing together work from Horizon Campus, Sri Lanka, Kenyatta University, Kenya, University of Nigeria, University of Sydney, Australia with the University of Manchester.

The award will develop the University Living Lab (www.universitylivinglab.org) which links applied research needed by external organisations and our students in authentic assessment to enhance students’ employability and teaching and learning experience. Framed with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, our projects are set by organisations local to global. Students add value to organisation’s operations with interdisciplinary approaches, use of a wealth of resources and innovative methodologies. 

Our students are change makers.  Jen’s argument is that if students have to do assessment anyway, as a Civic University with Social Responsibility at our heart, why not do something useful?  The scale of opportunity here is huge; around 40,000 students undertake assessment, if just half dedicated a quarter of their assessment time to addressing challenges of social justice, gender equality, educational access, environmental degradation, to name but a few, we would generate 7.5 million hours of resource, annually.

The University Living Lab can offer ‘stand alone’ assessment in a course unit or it can a bank of inspiration to frame a dissertation, or a broad essay. Our commitment is that we will send any student research that achieves over 65% back to the organisation who set the project.  Over time, we return to the student any example of impact generated by the organisation through the student’s research.  So far, at least two students have been employed by organisations they did their research from and many more attribute their employment to this experience. The ACU Grant will be used to develop more global research projects for students to address.

If you would like to use the University Living Lab in your teaching, or offer student research power to your networks don’t hesitate to contact Jen: Jennifer.obrien@manchester.ac.uk

Connect with Sustainable Futures 

Share this release

Share on: Twitter
Share on: Facebook
Share on: LinkedIn