Issue 2
Monday, 26 March 2018
Charles Darwin University
Dr Petra Buergelt: transforming the higher education mindset
Dr Petra Buergelt: transforming the higher education mindset

Navigating shifting trajectories in higher education

By Andrew Hall

Psychology senior lecturer Dr Petra Buergelt says reimagining and transforming higher education is imperative to enable universities to fulfil their social mandate to lead people and societies towards living in sustainable ways that result in health and well-being.

A European Union-sponsored Erasmus Academic Mobility Exchange Scholarship with the University of Bergen in Norway enabled Dr Buergelt to attend a high profile conference that brought together Norway’s research and higher education communities, politicians, government officials, industry and NGOs to explore how universities can contribute to achieving UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

“I was very curious about how the higher education system works in Norway as it has a high reputation,” Dr Buergelt said.

“I was delighted to discover that education was seen as the key access to accomplishing the SDGs and that systems thinking, collaboration across disciplines and sectors, qualitative research and university advocating transformation of society were identified as critical pathways.

“However, it also became clear that the Norwegian system faces similar challenges to our system. The varied impacts of increasing commercialisation and administration on higher education, creates an environment that critically diminishes the ability of academics to conduct the research and education required to accomplish the SDGs.”

Dr Buergelt said it was time for academics to stand up, join forces and collectively utilise the tools of their trade – research and education – to provide scientific evidence for the state of affairs of higher education, and of the costs of commercialisation to society.

“Collective effort along with social justice and creativity are essential foundations for sustainability.”

During her time in Bergen Dr Buergelt also presented seminars to academics and Master and PhD candidates from various disciplines at the University of Bergen.

The seminars explored transformative pathways capable of creating a shift in the Western worldview that lead to unsustainable ways of living and of facilitating individual and collective adaptive capabilities that empower people and society to live in harmony or balance with nature, themselves and others.