U.Va. Among Leading International Universities to Sign On to Sustainability Focus and Agree to Collaborate on Ph.D. Programs

June 3, 2009 — Emphasizing the important role that universities play in addressing global sustainability, member institutions of Universitas 21 signed a "Statement on Sustainability" at their annual meeting.

The agreement is one aspect of the consortium's Year of Sustainability. The University of Virginia, represented by President John T. Casteen III and Dr. Arthur Garson Jr., executive vice president and provost, was among the signers, expressing its commitment to engage in research toward a sustainable future.

Universitas 21 – or U21 – is the leading international network of 21 leading research-intensive universities in 14 countries. Casteen serves as chairman of the consortium. The annual meeting was held May 20-22 in Seoul, South Korea.

"Sustainability is an essential activity in any university that wants to be useful in the next generation," Casteen said. "Working together to implement an integrated, collaborative approach to the critical sustainability issues facing the world, U21 member universities will be able to share technologies, scientific information and design concepts that will improve the progress we all make toward sustaining the environment."

The member universities committed themselves to:

advance timely solutions to ecological, societal and economic problems, through research, teaching, community partnerships and demonstrable actions;
accelerate these solutions beyond the campus through engagement with civil society, industry and government; and work collaboratively and cooperatively to achieve more than is possible by working alone.

Each university will develop, publish and monitor targets; share results with each other;
engage in research; establish its campus as a living laboratory for a sustainable future; emphasize citizenship and engagement to promote faculty, staff and student volunteerism; and build capacity through cross-network collaboration.

In addition, vice chancellors and presidents from 14 institutions signed a memorandum of understanding to launch unique opportunities for Ph.D. students around the U21 network.

The agreement establishes a joint Ph.D. program that will enable doctoral students to embark on joint degrees, which will enhance their research and employment opportunities on an international scale.

Unlike a number of other joint programs, this memorandum gives an over-arching framework for universities to tailor programs of study to each student's individual research needs and enable collaboration with another of the network's universities.

Speaking on the launch of the program, Casteen said the agreement marks a key development in the way U21 universities approach study and research.

"Not only does this distinguish us from the other programs already in existence, by being focused clearly on the needs of the individual students, but it sets a new benchmark for international collaboration at the Ph.D. level and a trend which I believe is one that should be followed by other major networks and consortia," he said.

The institutions involved are the universities of Auckland, Birmingham, British Columbia, Delhi, Dublin (University College), Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Korea, McGill, Melbourne, Nottingham, Queensland and Virginia – a truly global array of research partners for students embarking on a Ph.D.

The program grew out of discussions among deans and directors of graduate studies within U21, led by Mary Bownes, vice principal at the University of Edinburgh, who saw the opportunity to use the strength and cohesion of the network to advance graduate study globally.

About Universitas 21

U21 is a network of 21 research-led universities around the world. It aims to promote and achieve collaboration, cooperation and work of a comprehensive nature, drawing on a strong bond of collegiality found between similarly minded universities, all of whom occupy a highly regarded status in their respective global regions. The membership comprises: University of Auckland, University of Birmingham, University of British Columbia, University of Delhi, University College Dublin, University of Edinburgh, Fudan University, University of Glasgow, University of Hong Kong, Korea University, Lund University, McGill University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, University of Nottingham, University of Queensland, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, National University of Singapore, Tecnologico de Monterrey, University of Virginia and Waseda University.