The World Association for Sustainable Development (WASD) is very pleased to welcome to its Gulf Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Universities Initiative (GULFSDGsUNi).
As knowledge production sites, the university’s engagement in national economic growth and the broader development agenda in its country is nothing new. Ever since the beginning of modern science, knowledge has been sought from the university and today, more than ever before in human history, the wealth or poverty of nations depends on the quality of higher education. Revolutionary breakthroughs in the knowledge economy are leading to remarkable changes in the way forward-looking nations capacitate their graduates.
According to UNESCO, universities are not just for teaching purposes, but also contribute through research in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) and in the social and human sciences, to the advance of knowledge, to the creation of new knowledge, to cultural development and fulfilment, to the solving of the problems with which the society is faced, to SD.
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 Gulf countries 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, particularly in Gulf, 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.