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New degree tackles urgent issue of sustainability

Professor Regina Scheyvens at a summit in Auckkland on Sustainable Development Goals this week.

A new Massey University master’s degree framed around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is set to empower graduates to tackle some of the most urgent issues facing humanity.

Programme coordinator Professor Regina Scheyvens says sustainability is “perhaps the most pressing imperative facing humanity” and is addressed head-on by the creation of the Master of Sustainable Development Goals.

Professor Scheyvens, who leads the Development Studies programme in the School of People, Environment and Planning, says the degree represents a cross-university collaboration to address the three main elements of the UN’s sustainable development goals – ecological, societal and economic. It also presents a unique opportunity to showcase Pacific and Indigenous concepts of sustainability as alternatives to dominant western models, she says.

Since 2105 193 countries, including New Zealand, have signed up to the goals, which the United Nations says are “the blueprint” to achieve a better and more sustainable future.

The degree will focus on implementing the goals, in particular how to measure an organisation, community or country’s performance against the goals and how to work with others to achieve more sustainable outcomes. It is aimed at recent graduates looking for work-ready skills in sustainability and professionals from diverse backgrounds thinking about a career change.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark's tweet in support of the new degree went viral

Breaking down silos for more collaborative approach to solving global problems

Professor Scheyvens says the degree takes a “silo-breaking approach” by fostering a new mindset in which there is greater collaboration between private, public and government institutions. It also allows students to work across disciplines including sciences, social sciences, arts and business. 

It has four specialisations: Business and Sustainability; Disaster Management; Environmental Sustainability and Global Development, and will be available from semester one next year, subject to final approval fromn the Committee on University Academic Programmes. It would be the first such qualification in New Zealand or Australia.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who was administrator of the United Nations Development Programme from 2009 to 2017, endorsed Massey’s new degree this week in a tweet that went viral, following her keynote address at the the SDG Summit held in Auckland on September 2, 2019. 

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