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CHARM-EU launches its first master’s degree





The interuniversity alliance CHARM-EU will be celebrating the beginning of its first master’s degree, the Master’s Degree in Global Challenges for Sustainability, on Thursday 2 September, at 11 a.m. The Degree is one of the first to be launched in the European Universities Initiative (EUI), which is co-funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ Programme.

The ceremony, which will be led by the Degree’s academic director Catherine Comiskey, will be streamed live at this link; also participating in the event will be Spanish Minister for Universities Manuel Castells and the heads of CHARM-EU’s five partner universities, which together form one of the EUI’s ‘European Universities’: the University of Barcelona, Trinity College Dublin, Utrecht University, Eötvös Loránd University and the University of Montpellier.

“In many ways the launch is an important milepost not only for the alliance and our own institution but for all the university system,” said University of Barcelona rector Joan Guàrdia, who will be closing Thursday’s ceremony. “For one, it’s an opportunity to pilot new teaching models to help universities adopt a challenge-driven approach to global issues like the climate crisis, the refugee crisis or AI governance and put these at the centre of student education. Then, it’s also a way to foster and facilitate interuniversity collaboration across Europe, which is important to the UB as an institution that constantly coordinates its involvement in Barcelona and in national affairs with activities at an international level, and that considers the alliances that form ‘European Universities’ in the European Universities Initiative as arenas of choice for all our universities’ present actions and, importantly, for the future. Finally, degrees like this will encourage us to explore new ways of understanding and organising our universities from an administrative point of view and in terms of research and teaching; indeed, that our alliance is the first to have initiated a master’s degree programme is already a major achievement.”

CHARM-EU’s Master’s Degree in Global Challenges for Sustainability is offered to bachelor-degree holders from diverse academic disciplines and backgrounds who wish to acquire advanced knowledge and skills in sustainability. Using the UN’s Global Goals and the proposals outlined in the EC’s European Green Deal, amongst other documents of reference, students on the programme will examine the pressing need to address real-world social and global challenges in order to reconcile our society with the planet. The programme is delivered in blended and hybrid models, and the accredited degree will be jointly awarded by the five universities in the alliance. Both the international activities and student mobility will also be key features in the programme, ensuring that its teaching and learning activities maintain high standards.

“This master’s degree will help create a new generation of professionals deeply committed to addressing society’s challenges through their collaborative efforts — people who will effectively champion sustainability as the means to build a better world,” said Núria Casamitjana, the rector’s commissioner for CHARM-EU. Moreover, the master’s degree will also allow the UB-led alliance to build on the two principles that define its identity as an EUI ‘European University’: flexible and inclusive mobility as the essence of any innovative international programme and a curriculum that is both research-based and challenge-driven.

Catherine Comiskey, the academic director of the master’s degree and a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, also explained two of the main features that make this degree innovative and exciting at a personal level: first, for the purposes of assessment, the fact that each student finishes the course with their own e-portfolio describing the skills and competences they have acquired; and second, that the course itself offers students the chance to collaborate in real-life challenges.

At the time of writing, some 80 students have enrolled in the Master’s Degree in Global Challenges for Sustainability, almost half of which come from bachelor’s degree studies in the social sciences, economics or law. Of the remainder, thirty percent of the students graduated in the ambits of science, technology and health studies and the rest have degrees in the humanities.

Finally, as well as its work on the master’s degree, the CHARM-EU alliance has been compiling the CHARM-EU Toolkit, a guide to good practices designed to help other ‘European University’ groups improve the quality of their academic offering, its competitiveness at an international level and society’s commitment to higher education.

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