ICS Seminar Series - The sustainable development goals

Date: Thursday, 21 May 2020
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: this seminar will be held online via Zoom. Please RSVP by 12:00pm, 20 May, to e.blight@westernsydney.edu.au to receive the Zoom ID and password.

The sustainable development goals

Panel: Jen Dollin, Paul James, Anisah Madden and Katherine Gibson

After a period in which sustainability took a backward step in relation to resilience talk and overcoming disaster, it is very much back on the global agenda. And at the centre of this resurgence is a renewed interest in the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs). These goals were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 to guide the world towards a sustainable and prosperous future for all. Agenda 2030, as it is called, has 17 goals, each with specific targets, to be achieved in the years before the end of the third decade of this century. The goals are at once inspiring and problematic.

These goals have come to inform the practices of many organizations, cities and nation-states — albeit unevenly. They are also the basis of the Times Higher Education Impact Ranking scheme for assessing universities. Over 760 universities from 85 countries submitted data to the 2020 rankings, and Western Sydney University was ranked third in the world after Auckland and Sydney. Western Sydney is now building ‘sustainability thinking’ into its curriculum and practices.

This seminar seeks to lay out the strengths and weaknesses of both the Sustainable Development Goals themselves and the ranking scheme. The seminar will comprise a panel setting out how the SDGs inform the Times evaluative framework, how they are being taken up by the University, and how researchers might respond to the kinds of critical issues that will arise as the SDGs are used to measure what is intended to be positive impact.

  • Are the SDGs relevant to our research work?
  • If so, how can they be used pragmatically and positively?
  • How can the SDGs be used well without taking on some of their more dubious framing assumptions?


Jen Dollin, Senior Manager, Sustainable Futures, Office of the PVC Learning Futures

Paul James, Professor, Institute for Culture and Society

Anisah Madden, PhD Candidate, Institute for Culture and Society

Katherine Gibson, Professor, Institute for Culture and Society