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Aligning Higher Education with the United Nations SDGs


The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) consist of 17 objectives and 169 targets unanimously embraced by all 193 UN member states, aiming for realization by 2030. These goals urgently demand coordinated efforts from both developed and developing nations to eradicate poverty, address socio-economic and environmental issues, and enhance quality of life and education.


  • GS2- Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • GS3- Environment

Mains Question:

The National Education Policy 2020 shows a commendable positive alignment with the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. Examine. (10 marks, 150 words)

Status of implementation of SDGs:

  • Despite the passage of eight years since their inception, the 2023 SDGs Report reveals sluggish progress, influenced by the prolonged impacts of COVID-19, the climate crisis, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and a weakened global economy.
  • The lack of advancement is universally experienced, with more pronounced setbacks in the Least Developed Countries.
  • India, though navigating global economic crises and overcoming pandemic challenges, has faced setbacks in SDG attainment.

National Education Policy and SDGs:

  • However, recent policies and actions indicate India’s commitment to SDG realization.
  • Notably, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 aligns with many SDGs, with a particular emphasis on higher education. Recognizing the transformative role of higher education in fostering social mobility, creativity, critical thinking, and employment skills, NEP 2020 is crucial in this regard.
  • Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) emphasizes the significance of higher education in employability and income, thereby contributing to several SDGs.
  • Universities are urged to strengthen the research-teaching nexus, producing multi-talented individuals capable of addressing global challenges.
  • Sustainable development requires a paradigm shift in production and consumption patterns, necessitating collaboration between universities, innovative startups, and private companies.
  • Value-Based Education (VBE) is recommended to instill responsibility towards self, society, and the planet.
  • NEP 2020 mandates that Indian higher education align its operations with SDGs, emphasizing the need for universities to integrate sustainability into their strategies.

Way Forward:

  • Ranking universities based on SDG achievements is a positive step, but more concerted efforts are required. Stakeholders in higher education should be educated and oriented to ensure no activity leaves any SDG behind.
  • Collaboration among the vast number of higher educational institutions in India is essential.
  • Universities should actively engage with local communities in education, innovation, culture, and civic life, fostering a culture of community health, energy conservation, efficient resource allocation, waste reduction, and skill development.


It is imperative that universities adopt sustainability as a guiding principle, incorporating SDGs into their daily administration, teaching, and research, recognizing their integral role in socio-economic development and nation-building. Every citizen should perceive universities as direct contributors to their well-being and national progress.

December 2023