Grand Challenges provides a platform for the participants to develop ideas and make change happen

Students tackle some of the world’s Grand Challenges

Climate change, global security and mental health issues are some of the huge global challenges being tackled by University of Exeter students this week.

Around 450 students who are studying a wide range of subjects, signed up to take part in Grand Challenges which provides a platform for the participants to develop ideas and make change happen.

The week of panel events, guest speakers and group work, was opened with a message from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Steve Smith.

“We believe Grand Challenges has an important contribution to make, which is why I’m so delighted you’ve chosen to take part,” he said. “Today’s society faces many serious, global issues and there’s a real need for future leaders, like you, to work together to try to find solutions; not just this week but over the months and years ahead.”

For the first time students from the University of Exeter joined their peers from Falmouth University on the Penryn campus in Cornwall to work together on The Case for Earth, to develop the skills to ensure there are good advocates for the Earth, who will challenge governments and large corporations. Last month the University of Exeter declared an environment and climate emergency and announced it was establishing a team to focus on the actions required, based on evidence and science.

The students taking part in The Case for Earth first listened to the Chief Executive of Surfers Against Sewage Hugo Tagholm, who detailed some of the campaigns from their beginnings tackling sewage in the seas, to today’s focus on plastic waste.

He said afterwards: “Of course the students here listening today are some of our future leaders; people who can make a big difference to all of our environment, not just our ocean. So I hope that we’ve given them some pearls of wisdom for the future.”

The students also heard from Shane Holland, Executive Chair of Slow Food in the UK, which is a global, grassroots movement that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.

“I try to come to anywhere where I can meet new people, particularly young people and really try to inspire people to do things,” he said. “Twenty years ago I was sitting in rooms like this, thinking ‘Can I do something?’ I’m here today to say: ‘Yes, you can!’”

As well as working towards solutions to some the world’s problems, the week also helps the students to develop a range of transferable skills and make new friends. 

The Grand Challenges 2019 are: Climate Change, The Case for Earth, Gender Inequality, Mental Health, Global Security and Food For Thought. 

Date: 11 June 2019

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