IAU in action

IAU in action

IAU Vision

Future well-being of humanity and the planet depends on successful resolution of the interconnected challenges of economic, social, cultural, and environmental sustainability. The International Association of Universities is an international non-governmental organization and an official partner of UNESCO (Associate Status) that recognizes the key role higher education (HE) plays in the overall process of achieving sustainable development. As of January 2018, the IAU counts 650 Members (Institutions & Organizations) based in some 130 countries.

For over three decades, the Association takes part in international and regional initiatives and holds events to promote the integration of sustainable development (SD) into higher education policies, strategies and work.  

IAU HESD strategy 2016-2020

IAU’s Strategic Plan and related actions in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provide a framework for university leaders to develop inter institutional collaboration in pursuit of sustainable development. The aim is to help HEIs leaders, from our Members and Partners, embed sustainable development concepts and principles in strategic planning, academic and organizational work.

Our objectives for 2016-2020 are the following *:

  • Strengthen IAU’s work in support of the 2030 Agenda and related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Develop and share expertise on the SDGs.
  • Enhance IAU Members’ involvement in HESD. 
  • Encourage peer-to-peer learning using the IAU global network of HE leaders.
  • Foster ‘whole institution’ approaches at the leadership level to integrate sustainable development priorities, and develop guidelines for embedding SD in the whole institution.
  • Monitor trends and issues related to HESD. 
  • Provide leadership training, capacity building and networking services.
  • Map and analyze assessment tools related to HESD.

IAU will pursue its ABC strategy through:

  • Advising & advocating
  • Building synergies & networking
  • Communicating & convening

Download our leaflet IAU for HESD.

IAU Actions

This timeline highlights important dates related to HESD as well as the IAU main contributions to the UN-DESD (The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2014) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development since 1993.

To know more about IAU's actions, please consult IAU profile

IAU Horizon

You can also download IAU Horizons, the Association's news and information magazine; these volumes focus more specifically on sustainable development: 

All other volumes are available on the IAU website


IAU  conducted a Global Survey on HESD in 2016. The results of the survey are available in the publication: Higher Education Paving the Way to Sustainable Development: A Global Perspective.

Further surveys and publications are currently being developed.


IAU develops a Cluster of 17 Universities around the world that will engage in the SDGs and share knowledge.

* IAU pursues a 4-year Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan was adopted during the 15th IAU General Conference in November 2016. It deepens IAU’s focus on four key higher education challenges, namely Leadership, Internationalization, Sustainable Development, Information and Communications Technologies, while improving support and services to Members as well as enhancing their visibility and engagement.

IAU's Working Group on Sustainable Development

IAU works on Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development (HESD) since it adopted the Kyoto Declaration on Sustainable Development in 1993. Since then, IAU develops initiatives and projects, contributes to key international conferences and focuses own conferences on this topic. Key partners for IAU in this area are UNESCO, UNU-IAS, COPERNICUS Alliance, UNEP-GUPES, AAU, among others.

IAU Working Group Members sit on several committees (such as the Ubuntu Committee of peers, the Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs), the UN-DESD Reference Group, UVED, SULITEST).

Members IAU Working Group on HESD

Chair of the IAU HESD Working Group

  • Pornchai MONGKHONVANIT, President, Siam University, Thailand

IAU President

  • Pam FREDMAN, Former Rector, University of Gothenburg, Sweden


  • Ranbir SINGH, Vice-Chancellor, National Law University, India
  • Mahmoud Nili AHMADABDI, President, University of Tehran, Iran
  • Mohammad Reza POURMOHAMMADI, Chancellor, The University of Tabriz, Iran
  • Dzulkifli ABDUL RAZAK, Former Vice-Chancellor Universiti Sains Malaysia and Former Vice-Chancellor, Albukhary International University, Malaysia
  • Roberto ESCALANTE SEMERENA, Secretary-General, UDUAL, Mexico
  • Salvador VEGA Y LEON, Rector, Autonomous Metropolitan University, Mexico
  • Mirta MARTIN, Former President, Fort Hays State University, USA

IAU Secretariat

  • Hilligje van’t LAND, Secretary General, International Association of Universities
  • Stefanie MALLOW, Programme Officer, International Association of Universities