The World Association for Sustainable Development (WASD) is very pleased to welcome you to its Gulf Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Universities Initiative (GULFSDGsUNi). GULFSDGsUNi aims to bring together universities and research institutions from across the Gulf region in a regional forum to collaborate and reconnect with the discourse of SD. GULFSDGsUNi will therefore help universities and research institutions in the Gulf region to play a critical role as recommended by the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 enabling their countries reap the benefits form the global growth in the knowledge economy particularly for their countries’ Digital Natives (Youth).
Since the Rio summit in 1992, Sustainable Development (SD) is becoming increasingly a major concern for both Developed and Developing Countries (DCs). Yet, translating the principles of SD into effective economic and environmental policies seems to be a major challenge for all countries in the Gulf region. In the post Covid-19 era of global skills and knowledge race, universities in the Gulf cannot fail to realise, accept and accomplish their natural and ascribed roles (also remotely) as a strategic agent for national development to achieve the United Nations Agenda 2030 and its 17 SDGs. Universities must therefore confront new realities rapidly manifesting themselves in a diversely complex and fast-changing world. Business as usual will not suffice. Universities need to be expansively re-focused in order to become more sensitive and responsive to its mission of developing graduates who, in addition to conventional graduate training, are also able to help their countries achieve the Agenda 2030 and its SDGs.
GULFSDGsUNi aims to critically examine a number of issues relating to the role and relevance of universities and research institutions in the Gulf region to the contemporary discourse of countries’ sustainable inclusive knowledge-based development such as the role of universities in supporting and enhancing the process of economic and social development in their country; identify all major obstacles that universities face in their countries including any governments components and most importantly how can these obstacles best be overcome; and what is the new role(s) of universities in the post Covid-19 era.
Whilst there has been a tremendous growth in size, the expansion of higher education (HE) in all parts of the Gulf region, serious evaluation must be undertaken of the quality of teaching, research and development (R&D) and how universities are meeting the emergent development needs. What is evident in most DCs is a stupendous replication of traditional disciplinary-based techniques of knowledge production. These have, nevertheless, increased the richness of knowledge about the universe we live in but without apparently translating or transforming the catchment societal environments in terms of measurable productive capacities.
There are also grave concerns that HE in most Gulf countries is becoming increasingly obsolete which, in part, is why development programmes are stultified even from the outset. There are also serious issues regarding the under-performance in research – state of academic research is less-than-satisfactory in almost all universities in DCs. Therefore, universities in the Gulf region, must confront the ‘new realities’ evident in the environments in which they operate. Many scholars and policy makers have called for a transformative innovation agenda which embraces radical change for new synthesis and approaches for transforming universities’ role in achieving the SDGs in their countries.
GULFSDGsUNi also aims to improve the research within universities to help achieve Agenda 2030 and SDGs by addressing the significant demand for evidence-based research across the world. GULFSDGsUNi is therefore aims to provide practical recommendations and actions to help transform the way universities conduct and use research to achieve the SDGs, and the way universities access and benefit from the global data freely available for use by leading regional and international organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, etc.
GULFSDGsUNi will work closely with universities in the Gulf region to address the following key issues in their contribution to their countries’ efforts to achieve the Agenda 2030 and its SDGs.