IAU HESD Vision & Action

IAU HESD Vision & Action

IAU Vision

Future well-being of humanity and the planet will only be possible by resolving the environmental, social, economic and cultural challenges in a sustainable way. All actors, individual, private and institutional are presented with the same tasks. 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. Currently, IAU gathers more than 640 Members (Institutions, Organisations, Affiliates and Associates) from over 120 countries (October 2021).

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 2016-2022


Download our flyer 'IAU for HESD' 2021.


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 2016-2021 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.
  • Work towards the increasing implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in higher education globally.
  • Enhance IAU Members’ involvement in HESD.
  • Create regional and international initiatives among universities committed to Sustainable Development and to share these achievements with others wishing to engage in social, environmental and ethical responsibility.
  • Encourage peer-to-peer learning using the IAU global network of HE leaders.
  • Foster ‘Whole Institutional Approaches' at the Leadership level in order to mainstream the priority of Sustainable Development in all areas (management, administration, teaching and research, campus operations) and to involve all stakeholders (student, technical and administrative staff, teachers, researchers, managers) in Environmental, Ethical, Social and Economical Responsibility.
  • 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


IAU Horizons


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


Surveys and Special Publications


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.

The IAU 2nd Global Survey (2019) and the corresponding Report on Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development (Higher Education and the 2030 Agenda: Moving into the ‘Decade of Action and Delivery for the SDGs’) was published in January 2020. The next survey is planned for early 2022. 


IAU started a Series of Publication, one for each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The first one on SDG 13 (Climate Action) was released in July 2019. The publications contains actions and initiatives from 15 higher education institutions and universities around the world. It can be found here: Higher Education & SDG 13 : Climate Action Through University Teaching, Research and Community Engagement, 2019.

In March 2021, on the occasion of International Women's day, the University of Bologna and IAU published a similar collection of actions from Higher Education for SDG 5 (Gender Equality), which can be found here.


Currently, IAU is working on publications for SDG 14: Life Below Water, and SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, which will be released in fall 2021. 




Launched in 2018, the IAU Cluster on HESD promotes the role of higher education institutions in building more sustainable societies. It is a consortium of IAU Member universities from all parts of the world, working in collaboration to develop existing and new exciting initiatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all United Nations Member States in the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Cluster encourages a holistic approach to the SDGs, promoting the whole institution approach, where institutions aim to embed sustainable development in their strategic planning, academic and organizational work.

Find the 2020 IAU HESD and Cluster Infosheet here


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's profile


* IAU pursues a 4-year Strategic Plan, which was extended exceptionally to 2022 due to the pandemic. The current 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
  •  Remus PRICOPIE, Rector, National University of Political and Administrative Studies, Romania

IAU Secretariat

  • Hilligje van’t LAND, Secretary General, International Association of Universities
  • Isabel TOMAN, Programme Officer, International Association of Universities

Common Works