The Crucial Role of Universities in building resilient and sustainable communities


Khalid Md. Bahauddin :

In the backdrop of a rapidly evolving and intricate societal, economic, and environmental landscape, exacerbated by the escalating impacts of climate change, economic challenges, complex social dynamics, and external risk like pandemic outbreaks, the role of universities in shaping future citizens with a comprehensive understanding of multifaceted issues becomes increasingly challenging.

Consequently, it is imperative for universities in Bangladesh to systematically equip their academic staff and students for an education system centered on addressing challenges and fostering a research and innovation framework aligned with a mission driven perspective.

The significant role of universities in society is widely recognized, encompassing their roles as knowledge generators and educators, as well as pivotal contributors to social transformation.

This transformative influence is evident in initiatives promoting sustainability and active engagement in fostering diversity and inclusion. Moreover, recent global disruptions underscore the vital role of scientific research in crisis management.

Essentially, universities serve as knowledge hubs, offering valuable insights that enable societies to respond promptly to crises and address enduring consequences.

Thus it is essential to view universities as integral components of critical infrastructure, emphasizing their role and resilience as public goods.

Building a comprehensive approach to resilience across multiple systems in the face of diverse shocks necessitates exceptional scientific endeavours.

To ensure enduring societal advantages, these efforts must seamlessly align with ongoing initiatives dedicated to sustainable development. Effectively mitigating both local and global systemic risks, as well as preventively preparing for future crises, demands not only leveraging the transformative potential of rapid advancements in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and digitalization but also delving into a profound comprehension of the overarching social, economic, cultural, ethical, and political dynamics that govern change and collaboration.

As the epicenter of research and educational excellence, our universities should bear the institutional responsibility of defining problems, fostering constructive dialogues and producing substantiated insights for actionable initiatives.

The indispensable expertise offered by disciplinary academic experts across diverse fields is paramount in addressing urgent local and global challenges. This should underline the pivotal role of academic institutions in shaping evidence based policy.

The work of universities in areas such as discovering novel drugs and vaccines, creating more efficient technologies for sustainable infrastructures, and unraveling the dynamics of misinformation dissemination exemplify the substantial contributions of universities towards constructing resilient and sustainable societies.

In research, the core principle of academic freedom is the best driver of the capacity to address the diversity of current and future research needs associated with local and global challenges.

Relevant and real-world research areas include 1) identifying enablers of resilience in society, 2) improving our understanding of policy and mitigation measures, 3) understanding how society can sustainably adapt to complex challenges and, 4)studying obstacles to international collaboration, and the role of science in and for diplomacy.

Unfoundedly, our universities must need additional support of funding agencies to promote collaborative research which address local and global societal threats while continuously enhancing their support to fundamental research.

I believe that this multifaceted approach is essential to create the highest impact for society. In education, academic institutions have a responsibility towards the future generation.

Universities are accountable for equipping young people with the knowledge and skills needed to address the unprecedented challenges of the 21st century. Innovative approaches to learning that help students relate knowledge from different sources are needed to foster both resilience and sustainability.

It is imperative for universities to actively engage in science-policy-society interfaces to facilitate the development and dissemination of impactful, actionable research.

In Bangladesh, universities can play a proactive role in contributing to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, among other critical issues.


Advocating for increased cross-sectoral collaborations between the scientific and policy communities is recognized as a potent approach to generating research that directly informs decision-making, cultivating trust between the realms of science and policy, and designing outputs that optimize the efficacy of policymaking.

Along with the critical role of universities in society goes a social responsibility. Knowledge transfer and involvement of communities and players from outside are must for our universities.

It is imperative for our universities to actively engage with communities both locally and globally.

On a local scale, universities should foster knowledge transfer and engage in meaningful dialogues with the public, aiming to address current issues and share promising initiatives that contribute to a positive societal impact.

In light of global interdependence, endeavours to build societies that are both resilient and sustainable must be of a global nature and establish local linkages.

Universities should enhance their global collaboration in education, research, and stakeholder engagement, while concurrently minimizing the environmental and social impacts associated with internationalization.

The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the potential of digital technologies in facilitating novel forms of collaboration. Consequently, universities should collaboratively explore practices that foster sustainable internationalization.

The significance of resilience has never been more pronounced than it is today. In a world grappling with numerous crises, societies across the globe face the imperative to enhance their adaptability and ability to learn, reorganize, and thrive in swiftly evolving environments.

Scholarly literature from diverse disciplines and theoretical frameworks consistently emphasizes that resilient societies are characterized by elevated levels of flexibility, diversity, social and economic equity, community engagement, and broad participation in political processes.

Additionally, capacities such as open communication, the allowance for dissenting opinions, effective learning mechanisms, and advanced levels of education further contribute to the fostering of resilience.

Moreover, it is clear that for universities to meaningfully enhance their role in fostering resilience in the future, they must prioritize and fortify their own organizational resilience.

Insights from scholarly research on university resilience highlight the importance of ensuring that institutional structures align with the increasing complexity of current challenges.

Simultaneously, universities must safeguard their autonomy and steadfastly adhere to their fundamental missions of unbiased, fundamental research and teaching, even amid mounting external pressures.

We all live in a global environment encompassing physical, environmental, economic, cultural, and technological dimensions.

To echo a familiar English saying, “no university is an island.” Globalization necessitates collaborative efforts not only among universities but also among national and transnational institutions, corporations, businesses, and local communities on a broader scale.

Universities in Bangladesh have the potential to play a crucial role by offering capacity-building programmes, training, and professional skills development to address challenges related to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Only through collective action, drawing upon diverse localities, countries, cultures, disciplines and expertise, we can make our universities leaders in local and global change.

(Writer: Khalid Md. Bahauddin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) Daffodil Int’l University, Daffodil Smart City (DSC) Ashulia Dhaka, Bangladesh)