Grand Challenges gives undergraduate students the chance to try their hands at solving the most prominent challenges facing the world today.

Exeter students rub shoulders with international experts

University of Exeter students got the chance to trade ideas with a host of prestigious experts during the ever-evolving Grand Challenges programme last week.

The Director of Europol, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and members of the NHS all led sessions during the week to help students solve their Grand Challenges.

Grand Challenges gives undergraduate students the chance to try their hands at solving the most prominent challenges facing the world today. The five Challenges across the Streatham programme this year were Mental Health, Climate Change, Business of Brexit, Global Security and Food for Thought.

Almost 400 students carried out group research supported by leading academics and external specialists. Students then couple their research with insights from experts to produce an output which is presented to a panel comprised of leaders in the field. The week culminates on Friday with students showcasing their work to other participants of Grand Challenges and wider members of the University.

Outputs can vary from social media campaigns, videos, apps, games, events and more. Students on the ‘Climate App’ enquiry group looked to create an app for primary school students to help promote climate change to a young audience. The groups competed against one another pitching their ideas to Bickleigh primary school whereby the school students picked the best app idea.

Dean Pomeroy, a student who participated in Grand Challenges for his third year in succession, said: “There were a number of Challenges going on this year, where students from all courses offered by the University (and different campuses) engage in week-long interdisciplinary projects, with sub sections in each field, and people at the top of their industries having completely open discussions with you that you wouldn't really get anywhere else. The past three years, I've gone from starring in a gameshow about food wastage, to prototyping an app about ways you can limit climate change, to briefing a government minister on the best approach towards internet privacy policies in the wake of recent terrorism.”

Oliver Morton, a science writer and editor from the Economist, and who chaired the IPCC Panel event, said: “It was a great honour to chair this public event, and to get the chance to learn from the experts both what 1.5ºC would mean for the world and what chances there are of meeting such an incredibly challenging target."

Shortlisted for the global Reimagine Education award 2016 (in the 'Cultivating Curiosity' category), unique to Exeter, and linking strongly with the Education Strategy Graduate Attributes, Grand Challenges is an interdisciplinary, enquiry led learning experience which improves student employability.

Grand Challenges took place at both the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus, and the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.


Date: 6 July 2017