Global Challenges – the role of Education
Prof. Geoff Simm, Director
Few visitors to this site would disagree that feeding the world’s growing population well - whilst protecting the natural systems on which we all depend - is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Around a third of the global population is affected by one or more forms of malnutrition – be that hunger, obesity or micronutrient deficiency. With the world population expected to reach 11 billion by the end of this century, and demands on natural resources at an all-time high, it is essential that we find new ways to feed the growing population without destroying the planet.
Achieving sustainable, healthy diets underpins many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – especially those concerned with hunger, poverty, health, gender equality, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.
While research priorities rightly attract much attention, arguably the role of education in tackling these challenges has been less frequently discussed. Many of the contributions to tackling the global challenges we face will come from young people yet to join the workforce. Higher and further education courses locally and globally need to attract, excite, and equip them with the skills and confidence to make these contributions.
Many schoolchildren are energized by global environmental challenges, but too few are yet aware of the contributions they could make through a wide array of rewarding careers in the agri-food-environment area. Many analyses suggests that there is an urgent demand globally for more graduates equipped to help tackle global challenges. We need to engage more imaginatively with younger people to convey these opportunities, and to make sure that the educational programmes we offer equip graduates with the global awareness, skills and attributes they need.
The University of Edinburgh’s Global Academies bring staff & students together from across the University and partner institutions to work on complex global challenges - through interdisciplinary research, teaching and engagement. The University is investing £35 million in new staff and facilities for the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security - the newest of our 5 academies.
We are offering four exciting new interdisciplinary BSc degree programmes to equip future leaders with the skills and knowledge required to help address key global challenges (see: https://www.ed.ac.uk/global-agriculture-food-security/studying).
Our undergraduate degrees in agricultural science, developed jointly with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), are among the most interdisciplinary in the University - combining the study of life, natural and social sciences in a real world context.
They will equip students for careers as leaders in sustainable farming practices, in agri-food business, as research scientists and technical advisers, and in governments, national and international agencies.
Postgraduate online distance learning programmes in Global Food Security and Nutrition, and in Food Safety, again developed with SRUC, allow flexible access for students worldwide, including those already working in the field.