uniaktuell The online magazine of the University of Bern

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Sustainability to the power of three

Bern’s three Institutes of Higher Education’s first jointly organised Sustainability Day was a complete success. More than 300 people obtained information about the of work of the University of Bern, PHBern and Bern University of Applied Sciences from talks, a panel discussion, 24 interactive stands and of the 18 workshops offered.

By Michael Gerber

"As a Green politician I feel like a fish in water at the Sustainability Day," said the delighted Director of Education and Green Councillor Bernhard Pulver at the opening of the Sustainability Day on 6 April 2017. The Pädagogische Hochschule PHBern, University of Bern and Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH) had planned and prepared the event together for one year. The conference was held in the vonRoll area, which is used by both the University of Bern and PHBern. Networking and creating synergies – these were the event's aims. Pulver highlighted in his keynote speech that sustainable solutions can only be achieved if the challenges are considered from social, ecological and economical perspectives. "Conflicting goals crop up time and time again when carefully weighing factors," said Pulver. "To think about the end in everything you do, that is sustainability," Pulver quoted the German entrepreneur Eric Schweitzer.

Education for Sustainability Development Guide for lecturers

"Sustainability is extremely important for the University of Bern, it is one of the five key themes in the 2021 strategy," stressed Vice-Rector Doris Wastl-Walter. "We want to give future decision makers the tools to make sustainable work possible for them in their professional life," said Wastl-Walter. At the university there are sustainability options on offer at all levels and sustainability is an important topic in research, teaching and operations. She referred to the Guide for Lecturers that has just appeared as a milestone under the heading education for sustainability development. (see http://www.bne.unibe.ch/ )

Magdalena Schindler, Vice-Rector of Bern University of Applied Sciences, made a commitment in her speech to give all the three institutes' efforts regarding sustainable development a higher profile. "Bern University of Applied Sciences is working on embedding sustainability institutionally and mapping it organisationally," said Schindler.

"Education for Sustainable Development is a matter close to our hearts"

"Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a matter close to our hearts at PHBern," said Martin Schäfer, Rector for PHBern. Students should develop a basic research and reflective approach to have the tools for their work in a permanently changing environment. Although sustainable development is an integral element of all courses it is not recognised to the desired extent yet in many cases. This observation was also confirmed by the PHBern lecturer Marco Adamina during the following panel discussion: "We have to become cross-border commuters and dare to think outside the box."

Mélanie Feurer, student at Bern University of Applied Sciences’ School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, expressed the wish for closer and more intensive cooperation between the institutes during the discussion. This would strengthen sustainable development. Bernhard Pulver once again pointed out that he was proud of the cooperation between Bern’s Institutes of Higher Education in the field of sustainability. Bern’s government has also made a commitment to sustainable development and is therefore leading by example. One student called for voluntary work in the field of sustainability to be compensated with credits. Pulver argued that voluntary work should definitely be appreciated more but did not always have to be rewarded with credits. A speaker from the audience pointed out that sustainable development has to be a conscious decision and cannot be implemented without value or purpose. 

24 stands showed off the big world of sustainable development

After the plenary, Thomas Breu, Director of the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern, invited the audience to take a tour through the exhibition. Projects from the three institutes were presented on 24 interactive stands. He pointed out that you could discuss, negotiate and buy, just like at a bazaar, and called on everyone to enjoy themselves, have fun and experience the variety with all their senses too. 

"It’s a valuable and targeted cooperation project," Monika Bandi Tanner, Head of Forschungsstelle Tourismus (CRED-T) at University of Bern, praised the Sustainability Day. "I think it is really important and good that the three Institutes of Higher Education are aware of their responsibility with regard to sustainable development," she said at her stand where visitors were informed, among other things, about a potential analysis that the Forschungsstelle Tourismus (CRED-T) had carried out for the world’s leading tourism trade fair that always takes place in Berlin. (see poster).

Participants were able to gain insights into research projects and find out more about implementation in teaching at two of the 18 workshops in total. These flashes of inspiration were also very exciting and educational.

More than 300 members of Bern’s three Institutes of Higher Education took part in the first jointly organised day for sustainable development. There were lots of students there too, besides lecturers and numerous leaders. The variety of the projects was impressive but at the same time it was clear that the work on sustainable development and education for sustainable development has only just begun.

Networking and creating synergies

PHBern, the University of Bern and Bern University of Applied Sciences held their first jointly organised Sustainability Day on 6 April 2017. The day highlighted current sustainability themes from teaching, research and operations at Bern's Institutes of Higher Education. 

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11.04.2017