Seeking Solutions to Global Challenges

The theme for the Vice-Chancellor's Challenge 2022 is ‘Seeking Solutions to Global Challenges’. It’s designed to generate solutions to some of the greatest challenges faced by our planet and its people, from climate change and destruction of the natural world to rising inequality and declining wellbeing. These problems, exacerbated by the global pandemic, concern every nation on Earth and affect every person.  

There are eight challenges that students can pick from to address under this overarching theme, each related to one of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and the University of Birmingham's upcoming Forum for Global Challenges. Understanding these complex challenges requires an interdisciplinary and collaborative response - which is why the Vice-Chancellor's Challenge aims to connect students studying different subjects across the University to come up with smart, innovative solutions that can tackle these challenges now. 

1. The Green Economy

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. 

The last decade was the warmest ever measured on Earth. Climate change is a real and undeniable threat to our world, its effects already visible, and its consequences will be catastrophic unless we act now. Given the economic slowdown resulting from the global pandemic, and the urgent need to combat climate crisis and it impacts, how can we respond to calls for a green economic recovery and develop smart, low carbon solutions?  

Sustainable Development Goal: 13 - Climate Action 

2. Restoring Nature

Protect terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt biodiversity loss. 

In the six seconds it takes you to read this, an area of rainforest the size of a football pitch has been lost. We are all part of the planet’s ecosystem, yet we have caused severe damage to it through deforestation, destruction of natural habitats, and land degradation. How do we protect what remains whilst we restore what we’ve lost? How do we redefine our relationship with our planet?  

Sustainable Development Goal: 15 – Life on Land 

3. The Future of Cities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. 

The world’s population is constantly increasing. Cities contribute more than 80% of the world’s GDP – but they also create over 70% of all carbon emissions. To accommodate everyone, we need to build modern, sustainable cities. For all of us to survive and prosper we need intelligent and sustainable urban planning that creates safe and resilient cities. How can we take action to make cities and communities more sustainable whilst improving urban wellbeing and quality of life for their residents?

Sustainable Development Goal: 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities

4. Mobilities and Migration

Reduce inequality within and among countries.  

Too much of the world’s wealth is held by a very small group of people. When every individual is self-sufficient, the entire world prospers. This includes the human right to move from one place to another, and to freely navigate social structures. How can we facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people? How can we change physical and social mobility structures for goods, services and people? Are there local transport solutions we can find and experiment with to better connect people and provide safe mobility? 

Sustainable Development Goal: 10 - Reducing Inequalities 

5. Food and Nutrition Security

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. 

Hunger is the leading cause of death in the world. Our planet has provided us with tremendous resources, but unequal access and inefficient handling leaves millions of people malnourished. How can we improve access to local, nutritious food in cities? What can we do we improve nutrition in food supply chains? How do we end hunger and malnutrition for good?

Sustainable Development Goal: 2 – Zero Hunger  

6. Health and Wellbeing

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. 

COVID-19 has starkly demonstrated the long-standing disparities and inequalities in health services around the globe and on our doorstep. How can we find and build better provisions for mental and physical health that are accessible for all?  How can we deliver solutions that help to address current inequalities? 

Sustainable Development Goal: 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing

7. Education and Employment Futures

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. 

Learning benefits every human being and should be available to all. What potential solutions are there to current and future educational and employment problems? How can we ensure inclusive and quality education and cdreate lifelong learning opportunities for everyone? Are there any possible alternatives? 

Sustainable Development Goal: 4 – Quality Education

8. Gender Inequalities

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. 

Gender bias devalues all of us. By denying women equal rights, we deny half the population a chance to live life at its fullest. Political, economic and social equality for women will benefit all the world’s citizens; together we can eradicate prejudice and work for equal rights and respect for all. In what ways can we end gender discrimination? How can we use technology to empower women? How can provide universal access to reproductive rights and health?

Sustainable Development Goal: 5 – Gender Equality 

Find out more about the Challenge 

To learn more about the Challenge, you can take a look at our previous winnersread our overview of the competition or follow us on TwitterInstagram or YouTube. 


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