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SDGs in education: studying to make an impact for a better world

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During the conference ‘SDGs in MOTION’, which took place yesterday in Den Bosch, Avans signed a letter of intent with HAS College, Fontys, Saxion College, Van Hall Larenstein, Utrecht College, Hanze College and the Hague College to include SDGs in their educational programmes. The aim is to ensure that all graduating students who enter the employment market or start their own business have knowledge of the SDGs and know how they can be applied in practice and can be translated into sustainable business cases.

The colleges will make an inventory of what already happens and exchange best practices. They will also work together to expand this approach to all colleges and universities in the Netherlands.

Research into SDGs in education
This alliance of colleges is a follow-up step on research by Business Innovation students Anouk van Bussel, Joost Vermeer and Lieske Visser, supervised by researchers Kees van Kaam and Marleen Janssen Groesbeek. They conducted exploratory research into the current state of affairs concerning SDGs in Higher Vocational Education. It transpires that all colleges are doing ‘something’ in their educational programmes and have their own way of approaching sustainability and social responsibility, but barely any of this falls under the heading of Sustainable Development Goals. “Initiatives are fragmented and not integrated,” according to Janssen Groesbeek. “The good news, however, is that there are sufficient reference points in current study programmes to which the SDGs can be linked. Entire study programmes do not need to be overhauled.” In fact, it is SDGs that give sustainability concrete content and clear action perspectives for education, students and teachers, because goals are central, rather than the methodology or models. The opportunities for multi-disciplinary research and education are enormous. It is precisely the SDG perspective that allows you to look, think, connect and collaborate differently. Research by VNO/NCW has also highlighted an increasing demand for SDG-competent professionals in the business community.

SDG Innovation Challenge
During the conference, Business Innovation students demonstrated how you can get to work on SDGs in education. During the previous semester, they worked on self-developed SDG innovation challenges and presented more than 30 sustainable business cases to participants at the conference. Certain proposals will actually be implemented with partners.

The winner of the challenge was an online platform designed to encourage young people to eat less meat. Other winners included an app that enables you to easily donate small change to charities and a platform that encourages people to grow their own fruit and vegetables, and to buy local produce.

Jan Peter Balkenende handed out the prizes. Students receive a mentorship from the members of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, SDG Charter or Social Alliance to continue developing their business cases.

SDG Charter
Since yesterday, Avans College has also signed up to the SDG Charter. Chairman of the Supervisory Board Paul Rüpp signed an agreement with the director of SDG Charter Maresa Oosterman, which means that Avans now joins many other organisations in working together to achieve SDGs through social initiatives, (inter)national partnerships, education and research.

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