Since spring 2020, teachers in charge of courses at Aalto University have analysed the contents of their courses from the perspective of sustainable development goals (SDGs) and defined the most important SDGs for their course content. In practice, teachers choose between one and three of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, which are central to the content of the course. This makes it easier for students to find courses addressing the sustainable development themes that are of particular interest to them.
The School of Business offered 471 courses in the academic year 2020–2021. Of these, the contents of 214 courses (45.44%) reflected the goals of sustainable development. On the other hand, in 241 courses (51.17%), the teachers in charge had indicated in the course description that the course did not specifically address the themes of sustainable development. For 16 courses, a yes/no entry was missing regarding content related to SDGs.
Of the 17 sustainable development goals defined by the UN, the School of Business offers the largest number of courses on themes related to the goal of Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG #8). There were 146 of such courses, or 29.2% of the total number of courses offered in spring 2020. The second highest number of courses was offered in themes related to the goal that promotes Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG #9). There were 90 of such courses altogether, or 18% of the total number of courses available. Moreover, 46 courses (9.6%) offered teaching focusing on Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG #12). The courses dealt less with the other SDGs.
‘We are pioneers, but there is still plenty to do’
The integration of SDGs into the content of teaching is a key aspect of teaching development. It is important to make these objectives visible, starting from the course descriptions.
‘Even by international comparison, no other university enters information on the SDG content in the course descriptions. In other words, we are pioneers here. Of course, we still have plenty to do in terms of incorporating sustainable development thinking into more and more courses in the future. We also need to increase the in-depth understanding of SDGs in courses where they exist in name only’, says Professor Minna Halme.
Aalto University is committed to the comprehensive promotion of the UN goals for sustainable development. In addition to teaching, they are an essential part of research, innovation activities and campus development. Aalto University is also the first Finnish university to sign the international SDG Accord. It is a shared response by institutions of higher education to the UN goals for sustainable development, and its objective is to strengthen the significant role of universities in achieving of the goals of Agenda 2030. More than 150 higher education institutions around the world have signed the commitment so far.
United Nations: Sustainable Development Goals
The SDG Accord