The world has problems while universities have disciplines: Universities meeting the challenge of environment through interdisciplinary partnerships

Wilson, Gordon (2009). The world has problems while universities have disciplines: Universities meeting the challenge of environment through interdisciplinary partnerships. Journal of the World Universities Forum, 2(2) pp. 57–62.

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Abstract

Some issues, like environmental change, are perceived to be so important that they create a thirst for knowledge among citizens and professionals to understand and ultimately act. This thirst is, moreover, global in nature as the issues usually span national borders. It is incumbent on Universities, whose missions by definition concern knowledge, to engage in teaching and learning on such issues in order to build the capacities of citizens and professionals. Designing environment curriculum to meet the needs and demands of students requires, however, putting the subject at the centre of study. This emphasis on the issue – environment – potentially creates a tension with the usual discipline-centred foci of curriculum, while further challenges concern maintaining rigour and the capability of the Universities to be flexible and predictive. At root is the ability of Universities to address major global issues. The global nature of the environmental challenge and the need for interdisciplinary approaches to its curriculum, also present, however, an opportunity for Universities to work together in partnership, drawing on their respective, usually disciplinary, strengths. In this scenario the necessary interdisciplinarity, as a pre-condition for relevant curriculum, comes through scholarly working together at the respective disciplinary interfaces to create world-class teaching and learning to address a global challenge.

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