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Future17: Powered by Exeter and QS

Information for students

Are you passionate about creating real-world sustainability solutions? Want to develop transferable skills for the workplace and strengthen your CV? Does international collaboration and teamworking with a global cohort interest you? Then welcome to Future17!

About the Future17 Programme

The Future17 Challenge Program is a new global initiative between the University of Exeter, QS and leading international universities designed to support students to develop the skills needed to collaboratively tackle 21st Century global challenges through working with professionals to create pathways for innovative solutions to real-world issues associated with the United Nations SDGs.

A fresh approach to innovation; Future17 enables students to collaborate with learners from a consortium of global partner universities in international, interdisciplinary and multicultural teams through projects defined by SDG Challenge Partners (businesses, charities, NGOs etc.).

Future17 is about bringing students together from different cultural backgrounds and educational settings to collaborate on a challenge set by a SDG Challenge Partner, who they will work with to understand the problem, diagnose the issues, examine potential approaches through evidence-based study and propose & justify pathways for developing solutions.

Students will first undertake an online induction program that will develop skills for collaborative, challenge-based and inter-cultural learning, which will promote forms of Design Thinking for tackling global challenges. They will then work with academic and SDG Challenge Partner mentors online to diagnose a sustainability challenge and develop an approach for developing one or more solutions.

They will be assessed on the basis of a group project output (a report or equivalent) and an online group presentation to an expert panel, including representatives of the SDG Challenge Partner which set the challenge, a representative of QS and academic staff from the partner universities.

Student teams will be drawn from at least two partner universities to work in small groups of typically 6-8 students.

Students will be supervised by at least one academic mentor from a partner university, with expertise in the challenge area. There will also be a Challenge Partner, whose role will be to outline the sustainability challenge, provide context (and potentially data) and act as an agent provocateur.

Each academic year, Future17 will run in two rounds: 

Round 1: 

  • Part 1 (Induction - 4 weeks): mid-September to mid-December
  • Part 2 (Group Collaboration - 8 weeks): mid-October to mid-December
  • Part 3 (Final Pitch): mid-December  

Round 2:  

  • Part 1 (Induction - 4 weeks): mid-February to mid-May
  • Part 2 (Group Collaboration - 8 weeks): mid-March to mid-May
  • Part 3 (Final Pitch): mid-May  

The programme has been curated to enable Exeter students to study and complete their assessments in time for these to be integrated into end-of-academic-year examination boards to enable progression or award. 

Specific timings are yet to be confirmed and are subject to minor change.

Gain skills and experience

Partner universities will work with QS to encourage SDG Challenge Partners to shape a challenge related to one of the UN’s SDGs for student groups to work on and will provide mentor(s) for the students. You will be matched to a specific challenge project by the academic leads and mentors for the programme, based on initial mapping by the QS system using SDG interests indicated by students and SDG alignment of projects. 

Examples of projects

SDG partner projects are designed to set challenging questions and deliver specific deliverables, for example:

Future17 aims to develop the collaborative, intercultural and innovative skills sets required for tackling global interdisciplinary challenges in the 21st Century. Specifically, using the UN’s SDGs as an over-arching framework, the module aims to: 

  • Promote skills for Design Thinking as a way of mobilising creative, visual, inter-personal, iterative and multi-configurational approaches to problem solving;
  • Enable you to appreciate the importance of interdisciplinary and intercultural exchange and learning for tackling sustainable development challenges;
  • Develop your critical thinking skills to question conventional assumptions about sustainable development challenges through
  • Design Thinking approaches;
  • Develop employability skills by providing a space for you to work intensively with academic and SDG Challenge Partner mentors on a sustainable development challenge of mutual interest;
  • Enable you to gain an appreciation of the sustainable development challenges facing SDG Challenge Partners and how these can be responded to appropriately;
  • Develop skills for promoting change within organizational settings and developing systems and mechanisms to support such changes;
  • Develop professional presentation and report writing skills for external organizations;
  • Promote your awareness of and interest in applying academic knowledge to sustainable development challenges in a professional setting;
  • Provide you with an opportunity to generate non-academic impact for tackling sustainable development challenges. 

Future17 is about developing skills for international, inter-cultural collaboration for sustainable development and is a problem-focused program that encourages independent group-working. Accordingly, the syllabus is built around three discrete elements:

Part 1: Programme induction and skills for tackling sustainability challenges

This will comprise a series of online, flexibly available asynchronous learning activities to enable individual students to learn independently about the principles of Design Thinking that underpin the module, including collaborative learning, team working, working with external organizations and inter-cultural exchange. The induction program will also examine key elements of professional working and liaising with a client organization.

This induction program will be available via the Future Learn online platform (similar to ELE) for you to use ‘anytime, anywhere’. 
In advance of the induction program, you will be assigned to a team to work with other students and an academic and SDG Challenge Partner mentor(s) to work on a specific challenge in parts 2 and 3 of the module. You will be encouraged to make contact with your fellow group members via back channels (such as University e-mail or official social media) and you will also be able to informally meet your academic mentor online.

Part 2: Group collaboration 

In this part of the programme you will learn about your sustainability challenge and work as a team of students to design ways to diagnose the problem in collaboration with academic and SDG Challenge Partner mentors, and to develop approaches for delivering solutions. This is the main part of the programme and will comprise group work with students from partner universities, supported by their mentors.

You will collaborate in a range of ways, including synchronous online meetings as a team, synchronous online meetings as teams with your academic and/or SDG Challenge Partner mentors, and asynchronous teamwork using collaborative documents and online platforms. Student teams will be expected to meet weekly, with fortnightly structured support from mentors. 
The collaboration software used for this phase will be MS Teams, enabling group discussions, meetings and sharing of collaborative documents. However, teams will also have the flexibility to use other platforms as they prefer.

Part 3: Future17 Solutions Showcase event 

You will attend an online showcase event(s), where each group of students working on a sustainability challenge will undertake an assessed presentation of their project for 25 minutes, plus time for questions and feedback. This will provide an opportunity to celebrate your work and that of other teams, and provide a further space for collaborative learning. 

The written group assessment will also be submitted in this period. 

Eligibility and how to apply

Future17 is available to undergraduate students (except first years) and postgraduate taught students on all campuses and is a fully online module.  

Applying for Future17 as an optional, 15-credit module 

To take Future17 as a credit-bearing module, we will ask you in the application which of your current optional modules you would like to replace it with. If you are offered a place on Future17, we will adjust your module choice. 
On successful completion of the module, you should be able to gain academic credit for your participation and to use it as part of your degree program via Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) for 15 credits at RCQ level 6. This will be subject to available optional credit at this level and programme rules. 

Please contact us if you are in any doubt about your eligibility to apply and obtain credit from the programme.

Applying for Future17 as a non-credit-bearing module 

You can also apply for the programme on a non-credit basis (for example, if you do not have sufficient optional credits available). You will receive a certificate from QS on successful completion of the module. 

Please note that you should consider the academic workload implications of undertaking this additional work. Advice can be sought from the Academic Lead for Exeter, Dr Edvard Glücksman

Applications will be taken all you round.  For those hoping to compete the programme in Term 1, applications must be completed by September.  For those hoping to complete the programme in Term 2, applications must be completed by January. Places are limited and will be allocated on a competitive basis. 

Application and selection process 

The process for advertising, recruitment and selection is as follows: 

  1. Check your programme rules for eligibility and that you have sufficient optional credits available (the Future17 program is 15 credits at RCQ level 6). You can contact the Academic Lead (Dr Edvard Glücksman) or Project Manager (Re Oakley) to discuss this. You can also speak to your programme director.
  2. You make an application online, with a deadline of September for Term 1, and January for Term 2, using this MS Form.
  3. A selection process will select students to be part of the programme:
    If selected, we will work with the Hub Teams to register students onto Future17 and we will ask you at the application stage which 15 credit module you would like to drop so that we can arrange this for you.
  4. Students selected will then submit their details to QS via an online form to be allocated to an SDG project.