A new guide aims to help universities accelerate action on the SDGs


A new guide from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Australia/Pacific highlights the important role universities in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific have in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provides practical guidance on how they can accelerate their contributions.

Getting started with the SDGs in universities: A guide for universities, higher education institutions, and the academic sector was prepared in collaboration with the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS), the global SDSN Secretariat, and Australian and New Zealand universities.

The Guide was launched by Universities Australia Chair Professor Margaret Gardner, and presented to Vice-Chancellors on 21 August at a Universities Australia event at Griffith University. “Universities have a critical role to play in achieving the SDGs through their research, innovation, education and leadership,” she said. “It is vital that this role is nationally recognised.”

There is increasing awareness of the unique and crucial role universities have in ensuring the success of the SDGs. “Governments alone cannot implement the SDGs. It will require a partnership that brings together governments, the private sector, civil society, and, importantly, universities and educational institutions,” said Professor John Thwaites, Chair of SDSN Australia/Pacific.

The key contributions universities can make include:

  • Providing the knowledge, innovations and solutions to underpin SDG implementation
  • Creating current and future SDG implementers
  • Ensuring the SDGs are embodied within universities’ own extensive operations
  • Providing cross-sectoral leadership in local, national and global implementation

Furthermore, engaging with the SDGs can greatly benefit universities by helping them to demonstrate university impact, capture demand for SDG-related education, build new partnerships, access new funding streams, and define a university that is responsible and globally aware.

Many universities are actively looking to play a greater part in addressing the SDGs. These include the nine universities in our region that have committed at their highest levels to address the SDGs by signing the University Commitment to the SDGs. However, until now there have been few resources on SDG implementation that provided practical guidance to address the unique needs and opportunities of universities.

The Guide fills this gap by providing information on:

  • The case for university engagement with the SDGs
  • How universities can contribute to the SDGs through teaching, research, operations and external leadership
  • A step-by-step guide to developing a cross-university framework for SDG implementation
  • Practical guidance and tools to assist the process, including SDG mapping, reporting, stakeholder engagement, and managing interlinkages between the SDGs
  • Case studies and examples to inspire action

The Guide built on the experience and leadership of universities in the region in engaging with the SDGs, through a process facilitated by SDSN Australia/Pacific and ACTS. “The development of this Guide has been a fantastic demonstration of partnerships at work, resulting in a sector-focused, practical tool for institutions to start seriously thinking about how to engage with the SDGs,” said Leanne Denby, President of ACTS. “It is testament to our combined commitment to the SDGs.”

It also drew on resources developed for other sectors, including SDSN’s global guide to Getting Started with the SDGs in Cities.

The Guide will be useful for people or groups looking to implement a coordinated approach to the SDGs within their university, as well as for university leaders seeking to understand the opportunities of the SDGs and how to mobilise action. It will also be of interest for university staff and students wanting to undertake their own activities to support the SDGs.

The Guide was designed for the local contexts of universities in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. While much of the information within it is relevant for universities everywhere, a global edition is currently in development in partnership with the global SDSN Secretariat and the broader SDSN network.

Click here to download the Guide


For further information, please contact SDSN Australia/Pacific (info@ap-unsdsn.org).