On 6 and 7 June, more than 280 experts, interested parties and stakeholders discussed the conditions for a sustainable transformation of the science system at a symposium “Towards a Sustainable Higher Education and Science System”. The conference was organised by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) in cooperation with the German Rectors’ Conference.

WaNdel4! took the stage at the second day of the symposium by hosting a workshop in the slot titled “Driving the sustainability transformation in the science system – What do we need?”. The workshop offered the opportunities to share experiences on how transformation experiments can be implemented. It debated how the research results on the sustainability transformation can be transferred or scaled up and how much holism can be implemented at universities and in what ways.

The WaNdel!4 team facilitated a discussion on “The Role of Universities as Impulse Givers of Regional Transformation”. This took the form of a ‘world café’, where participants discussed the implementation of real experiments, the transfer of research findings, and the feasibility of the whole institution approach in universities. The key points of each table’s discussion were documented on brown papers for collective review.

At the end of the workshop, we identified three main issues to address. Firstly, the importance of allowing all forms of knowledge to coexist and inform each other. Secondly, the debate between top-down and bottom-up approaches, and which is more effective in promoting sustainability in universities. Finally, we discussed the future political position of universities – can they remain neutral in the face of transformation?

WaNdel4! aims at putting more sustainable practises and processes in place at the four implementing universities. Further, a resulting synthesis paper of the transformation pathways shall inform further universities. Thirdly, the transfer of knowledge transfer is to be strengthened, and fourthly, members of all status groups at the universities shall be sensitised for the diverse topics of sustainability including land use, climate mitigation and climate-friendly climate adaptation.

The symposium “Towards a Sustainable Higher Education and Science System” offered opportunities for networking, getting to know each other and exchanging ideas. During the conference, project leaders of the BMBF initiative “Sustainability in Science” and coordinators of networks were available to answer questions with presenting posters and screens.