2022 Spring Forum call for submissions: Our changing climate

2022 Spring Forum call for submissions: Our changing climate

Forum magazine is now accepting submissions for the 2022 Spring edition on ‘Our changing climate’. This issue of the EAIE member magazine will seek to investigate the possible paths toward sustainable internationalisation, highlighting the obstacles we currently face and learning from the promising examples of action already in our midst.  

As our global climate continues to change, growing warmer and less hospitable to human habitation, perhaps it is not surprising that the climate of international education is changing with it. As evidence of the nefarious impact of carbon emissions keeps piling up, ‘greening’ internationalisation is an urgent imperative. If our mission as international educators is to prepare graduates to be effective altruists in global society, how do we reconcile this with the environmental impact of the tools we use to achieve this goal, and what are the alternatives?

What is more, simply reflecting on how to make our climate impact neutral is no longer sufficient. Instead, real action is required. We must ask ourselves how we can leverage our sectoral strengths to work towards addressing the structural challenges of climate change. In what ways can international education strive to be not only ‘green’ or carbon-neutral but actively slow the tide of climate change and seek new solutions to mitigate its impact? With the help of practitioners and experts like you, we will seek to answer these crucial questions.

Sustainable mobility and beyond

In recent years, more scrutiny has been paid to the carbon footprint of a key internationalisation activity – mobility. According to estimates, student mobility produces at least 14 megatons of carbon dioxide per year, roughly equivalent to the emissions of entire countries such as Croatia or Tunisia. Driven by the growing popularity of education abroad, this number is rising even faster than overall global emissions.

The good news is that the problem is acutely felt and is being addressed. Plans to offset emissions are on the rise, and so are strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of mobile students. Reconsidering short-term programmes, replacing flights with train travel, emphasising intra-regional mobility, leveraging virtual tools, are all options being pursued, – and with some success, judging from the slow decrease of emissions per mobile student as reported by the Climate Action Network for International Educators.

Will this be enough? Is carbon-neutral mobility attainable? Or does mobility itself need to be reconsidered in the context of climate change? These questions become even more relevant as European international education interrogates itself on how to achieve the goal of a ‘Green Erasmus.’

Although mobility is beyond doubt the most obvious example of the environmental impact of international education, there is a much wider array of activities that has perhaps not received enough scrutiny yet. How do the activities of internationalisation directly or indirectly exacerbate the climate crisis? What does this tell us about ways in which we may need to adjust our approaches?

The toolkit of international education

In its path towards carbon neutrality, innovation may be key, but international education can also rely on many of its traditional tools and strengths to reorient its core activities towards sustainability. But how to envisage this in practice? For example, what role can networks and partnerships play in facilitating the sustainability of international higher education?

With its emphasis on collaboration across borders, international education is uniquely placed to face the challenge of climate change, requiring a global response. Teaching and research are vital, and international education has a lot to offer. What new skills do graduates need to confront the climate crisis? In what ways can internationalisation of the curriculum play a role in developing these skills? Are there examples of (international) projects or programmes that are actively developing new technologies or techniques for sustainability?

The mission of sustainability

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have typically been seen as an additional point of focus beyond the core mission of universities, although there are indications that this is changing, for example as seen in the high priority given to the SDGs by many recently developed European University Alliances. Might there be a role for ‘sustainable development universities’ that are instead explicitly oriented towards addressing issues of climate change and sustainability? If so, what might such institutions look like, and how can internationalisation support their development and success?

Share your expertise

What are your thoughts on international education and sustainability? EAIE members and non-members alike can submit their 800–1200 word article to publications@eaie.org by 17 January 2022. For more information on the issue theme, examples of article topics and guidelines for writing, see our page on Writing for the EAIE.