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Students on the Future17 programme

Students at Exeter engaging in the Future17 programme

QS Quacquarelli Symonds and University of Exeter spearhead global programme focused on experiential learning in sustainability

Students from an international consortium of institutions led by the University of Exeter have completed a first-of-its-kind global initiative to develop business skills and promote sustainability alongside global leaders.  

The Future17 program, coordinated by global higher education analyst QS Quacquarelli Symonds in partnership with the University of Exeter, brought together multinational organizations, leading universities and international teams of students to participate in real-life projects focused on achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The inaugural Future17 initiative provided 126 students from the University of Exeter, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Universidade de São Paulo and South Africa’s Stellenbosch University with academic and professional mentorship through work experience on real-world sustainability projects. Projects ranged from teaching sustainability in schools with the United Nations to designing sustainability policies for publishing houses with international media company Axel Springer.

Nunzio Quacquarelli, QS CEO, said: “QS is delighted to have co-founded the Future17 SDG Challenge Program to give students once-in-a-lifetime experiential learning that is truly without borders. Bringing together students and organizations from across the world under one banner with a united goal in a reciprocal exchange of skills and knowledge creates a wellspring of potential innovation for the future.”

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, said: “Future17 is a clear manifestation of our ambitious 2030 Strategy, which has at its heart a vision to use the power of education and research to create a more sustainable, healthier, and socially-just future. The success of the pilot shows the appetite for this kind of collaboration among our students and staff, and we are proud to have led the initiative alongside QS and our global university partners.”

“By delivering practical projects for these organizations, not only do students develop cultural competencies, digital skills, collaborative working behaviours and critical problem solving that will prove invaluable to both themselves and employers, but they actively engage in building a sustainable future,” Mr Quacquarelli added.

Among the Future17 sustainability projects so far have been: 

  • The Green Rebel, a regenerative agroforestry farm in Spain aimed at fighting climate change, deforestation, and declining biodiversity, engaged students in the Future17 program to conduct market research related to the next steps in their agricultural expansion.
  • The UN (United Nations) PRME Working Group on Climate Change and Environment, founded in 2007 to train education professionals and students about sustainable practices and promote sustainability in organizations around the world, tasked Future17 students with designing guides to help individuals and companies educate others about Climate Action.
  • Future17 students assisted European media giant Axel Springer to conduct benchmarking analysis around European publishing houses sustainability policies.

Dr. Ruzanna Tarverdyan, Founding President of the Geneva Consensus Foundation, another Future17 project partner, said: “I would like to congratulate the teams for the successful completion of this program. For us, this must be seen as setting a foundational document that can grow into a long-term project and may deliver long-lasting sustainable results for our organization.”

Building on the success of the Future17 pilot, QS and consortium members plan to scale up the programme, with the inclusion of 500 students from up to 20 universities delivering practical insights for the next 50 partners from around the world.

Date: 23 September 2022