New sustainability project at Uppsala University
Foto: Unsplash: Zoe Schaeffer/Lina Svensk

Students invited to give their input in new sustainability project

I meet with Joëlle Rüegg, Professor of Environmental Toxicology at the Department of Organismal Biology. Rüegg is the project manager of the ‘Hållbar framtid’ (‘Sustainable future’) project and is working together with the steering group on a proposal for how a university-wide initiative for research and education towards a sustainable future can be realized in praxis.

Joëlle Rüegg, Professor of Environmental Toxicology at the Department of Organismal Biology.

The starting point of the ‘Sustainable future’ action is Vice-Chancellor Anders Hagfeldt’s vision of strengthening transdisciplinary research and education on sustainable development at Uppsala University. The aim of this action is to shape Uppsala University’s profile as an internationally leading university in the field of sustainable development and to become a long term key collaborative operator for projects relating to sustainable development.

- We have the chance to strengthen education and research in this area by exploiting the unique breadth of Uppsala University, which could in fact lead to much more inter-and transdisciplinary actions, Rüegg explains.

But what has happened since the project started in March?

- First, we wanted to get a good picture of the current situation. We used questionnaires and interviews to do an inventory and tried to get a sense of the potential there is and to allow researchers to make their voices heard. The intention was to make people aware of the project and to give people the opportunity to say how their research links to aspects of the project.

Rüegg adds that one of the biggest challenges so far  has been to overcome structural issues.

- The organizational structure of the university does not necessarily invite transdisciplinary initiatives in general, and we need to figure out the concrete structural and logistical aspects of the action.

Apart from overcoming such logistical issues, the project lead continues to work on bringing different faculties together for a common vision.

What areas will the project focus on?

- We settled on a focus that has not been done explicitly in this form and that we consider particularly suitable for Uppsala University. We want to focus on the conflicts and contradictions between different goals relating to sustainable development. Looking at issues such as health, equality, and clean air, we see that there are contradictions everywhere: Trying to find a solution for one problem within sustainable development can often create other problems, at other places.



Especially important to Rüegg is to not neglect the global perspective.

- In the context of sustainable development, we need to think about the global implications and should adopt a global perspective that focuses on these contradictions. Of course, this should not result merely in problematizing. Instead, we hope to evolve tools and processes that can help solve issues or come to a conclusion.

Rüegg adds that focusing on the contradictions and developing tools and processes to overcome these gives the Sustainable future action not only a theme but also shows why we need to include all disciplines in order to focus on many different aspects.

- We should make much more use of the potential that the university has and I think this topic would give us that – because you cannot solve these contradictions without considering and integrating other perspectives.

So far, mainly research and teaching staff have been involved in the project group. But what are some ways in which students and student-led initiatives can contribute to the creation of this platform?

Rüegg agrees that the student perspective is important and should be integrated into the project.

- Especially when we talk about education, the student perspective is of course super important. We tried to get a student representative into the steering group, but we had trouble reaching students and could not get any. And that was of course a bit frustrating, but we really hope to change that and to reach students now to get their input in our upcoming workshop.

The workshop will be held on Monday the 14th of November, between 13:00 and 15:00 at Segerstedhuset in the restaurant area. Rüegg emphasizes that the workshop is going to be less of a formal meeting but is a chance for the project group to present the project and where they currently are and hope to get the input of students.

- We will present the project and where we stand right now. Our goal is to get input from students and Ph.D. students. We have questions, especially about education. For example, would it make sense to integrate the educational basics in sustainability and sustainable development across programs or provide a lecture for every student that starts here at Uppsala university? These kinds of things can and need to be discussed with a study director, but the students should have their say. Beyond that, we want to have student representatives – right now it is simply challenging to reach them. Especially since we were missing the perspective of a student representative so far, we hope for student input at this workshop. No registration is necessary, and we hope this reaches many students who want to join!


Workshop Information:

Monday the 14th of November, 13:00-15:00, Segerstedthuset, lunch area. Fika will be provided. No registration is necessary.  More information on the project can be found via:

Hållbar framtid – ramar för satsningen - Uppsala University (
New project mobilises for sustainable future - Nyhet - Uppsala University (

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