Currents: Understanding and addressing global challenges was Edinburgh Futures Institute’s first undergraduate course launched in September 2020. The multi-disciplinary elective gave students the opportunity to explore a current challenge facing the world from the perspective of different disciplines. The course is now a fixture in the annual EFI undergraduate programme.
Not surprisingly, the focus for the first offering in autumn term was the Covid-19 pandemic. It used the crisis as an opportunity for students to learn how to make sense of relevant datasets and gain the critical awareness, knowledge and skills to better understand the complexities and global impact of this defining challenge.
The first Currents course elective was open to all undergraduate students from any discipline and was delivered fully online in the first term. Subsequent courses are offered in a hybrid format. Students create an asset related to their personal experience and understanding of the challenge. These assets, written or visual, performative or digital, contribute to the University’s archive of the lived experience of global challenges and a selection of them constitute this exhibition.
Professor Liz Grant, Assistant Principal (Global Health) and course lead, says:
“For the rest of our lives the period we are living through will be known as the time of COVID. Our lives, and the lives of those to come will be indefinably shaped by this story. But how we understand the COVID story depends also on how we see the world that we are living in, and how we understand our place in the world. This course examined the pandemic, the ways in which it was experienced across the globe, its impact on society, inequalities and injustices. We looked at the intended and unintended consequences of the global strategies, the ways that people responded and how new futures are emerging.”
Role of data
Alongside lectures by leading academics and professionals from industry, government and third sector, the course explored the role of data in understanding and responding to complex challenges. Students considered how different data generated about the challenge are shaping our lives, and how different disciplinary perspectives offer critical new insights into how we might respond collectively.
Going forward, each year the course will focus on a live challenge facing the world and global communities. It will offer students an opportunity to focus on highly current issues such as the climate crisis, financial recession, democracy or unrest as it is happening. The topic will be contextualised by the UN Sustainable Development Goals Agenda (2015-2030), and its vision of a world shaped by the common good, where no one is left behind and in which the needs of humanity are balanced with the preservation of the Earth.
Professor Siân Bayne, Director of Education, EFI, comments:
“The Currents course is a great example of the kind of education we want to continue to build through EFI. It’s led by Professor Liz Grant in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, supported by Dr Andy Cross in Geosciences and built around expertise and input from academics across medicine, humanities, social sciences and the arts. It has a strong critical theme relating to data and its uses, and embeds new ways of thinking about assessment, public engagement and the values of inclusivity and the common good.”
For more information about the Currents course and upcoming opportunities to join in, visit the EFI website here.
Featured Image: from Alexander Bell’s Creative Asset