World’s top universities fail to prepare graduates for climate change

Global youth campaigners released an alternative university league table on Thursday, ranking the world’s top universities on how their courses align with the actions needed to tackle the climate emergency.

The ‘1.5 Degrees’ League Table is a global ‘worst’ ranking of the top universities and reveals that these institutions are failing to prepare graduates for a 1.5 degrees Celsius future. The ranking has been developed by Mock COP, an international, youth-led organisation, whose work aims to amplify young people’s voices at the highest levels of decision-making.

The campaign group has assessed the world’s top 20 universities, taken from The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, on how their engineering, law, economics, politics and health courses, which are traditionally chosen by decision-makers, align with the actions needed to tackle the climate emergency and ecological crisis.

While all of the universities ranked performed badly, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tsinghua University, and Peking University top the table as seeming the ‘worst’ at preparing their graduates for a 1.5 degrees C future.

Global North universities dominate the table with 11 from the US, five from the UK and one each from Canada and Switzerland.

The campaigners have stated that based on the departmental websites for each of these institutions, decision makers and world leaders do not have the understanding that is required to tackle the climate and ecological crises with meaningful urgency.

Josh Tregale, Mechanical Engineering student and Mock COP campaign coordinator, stated: “World leaders consistently let us down at conferences like Davos, where they have the opportunity to create real, lasting change. Had our leading decision makers undertaken university courses which effectively taught the facts of the climate crisis and instilled sustainable thinking, then they would understand the urgency and act accordingly.

“Instead they are uneducated on the facts and unprepared for climate leadership.”

Cherop Soy, Mock COP Campaign Coordinator, added: “Those least responsible for the climate crisis are faced with its harshest effects and the world just stands by and watches. If world leaders, especially those in the Global North, had been educated to understand why wildfires are ravaging and glaciers are melting, they may have been better equipped to prevent these disasters.”

Mock COP hopes that the 1.5 degrees league table puts pressure on institutions to change their curricula to prepare students and future world leaders to address the climate emergency and ecological crisis through their careers.

Mock COP is an international, youth-led organisation aiming to amplify young people’s voices at the highest levels of decision-making on the climate crisis.

It was established at short notice to fill the void left by the postponed COP26 conference. Mock COP is driven by volunteers and coordinated by a global youth staff team (paid the UK real living wage) who are supported by core staff at SOS-UK.

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