At the Global University Leaders Council (GUC), organized every two years by the German Rectors' Conference (HRK), the Körber Foundation and the University of Hamburg, 45 university leaders from 27 countries discuss global challenges facing international higher education systems.
The theme of this year's meeting, which was held virtually, was the contribution of higher education institutions to tackling climate change and achieving greater sustainability in society. In the final declaration, university leaders committed their institutions to a holistic approach to climate change mitigation and sustainability measures. In doing so, they emphasized the importance of global solidarity: despite scientific competition as well as sometimes competing national priorities, it is important to strengthen opportunities for joint action among institutions.
Among other things, the GUC participants called for the integration of aspects of environmental protection and sustainability into the curricula of all degree programs.
HRK President Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt commented:
"Universities worldwide are in a central position to help address the consequences of climate change. They are influencing the actions of tomorrow's society by taking up the issues of environmental protection and sustainability, which are being called for emphatically by the younger generation in particular, and making them the basis of their actions."
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Dieter Lenzen, President of the University of Hamburg, emphasized the need for sufficient and reliable public funding explicitly dedicated to the sustainability of the university as an institution:
"In order for universities to be able to unleash their potential to support climate impact management through research and innovation, as well as in study and teaching, they must be able to act freely. Universities must not be overly dependent on third-party funding that is subordinated to particular goals, such as those of industry."
Tatjana König, Executive Director of the Körber Foundation, emphasized the role of universities in combating climate change:
"Not least because of their central position in the public discourse, universities are indispensable for successfully tackling global climate change and are key to the search for solutions. By closely engaging with their communities, universities support evidence-based exchange in society."