1.1 billion dollars. That’s the astronomical sum that Stanford University has just received from the philanthropic couple Ann and John Doerr to open a School of Sustainability. The event is doubly historic for the university: not only has a school not opened at Stanford for 70 years, but it is also the largest donation in its history. France is not to be outdone, since Nadia Maïzi is opening the TTI.5 Transition Institute at the École des Mines next fall. She sees this as a strong signal that higher education is starting to focus on environmental issues around the world. Where does France stand?
In 2022, higher education will (really) go green
The Manifesto for an Ecological Awakening, signed by 30,000 students in 2018 to call on grandes écoles to take the transition seriously, has started a groundswell. Last February, the Jouzel Report, named after the climatologist Jean Jouzel who authored it, was submitted to the Minister of Higher Education, with an ambitious goal: to train 100% of baccalaureate+2 students in the ecological transition within five years. This double pressure from the high spheres of the ministry and the mobilization of students in the field has accelerated the transformation of higher education. This year, the initiatives are multiplying, to the point that it is difficult to list them all,” explains Christian Koenig. A former member of the ESSEC administration, he is a member of the Transition Campus team, an original structure that offers universities and grandes écoles help in developing their transition training programs. “We receive an enormous number of requests,” says Christian, recalling that the Campus has grown considerably in just three and a half years.
Offering a course on sustainable development is no longer enough
The requests that the Transition Campus receives are not only more numerous, they are also changing in nature. Until now, institutions have developed a few isolated courses or specializations at the baccalaureate or postgraduate level. However, this type of initiative only interests people who are already sensitive to the environmental crisis, and rarely exceeds a few dozen students per year. For Christian Koenig, more and more schools are realizing that “you can’t give a three-hour course on the first day of the new school year to say that the world is in a bad way, and then go back to school as before… This is what is at stake in this transformation of higher education: sprinkling a few courses on sustainable development on a course is not enough. And the idea is gaining ground among administrative and teaching staff.
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