Universities that can change the world

A number of institutions have extended their mission statement beyond teaching or training and are now looking at having a positive impact on the planet and the communities we inhabit.

Started in 1996, the Albukhary International University (AIU) calls itself a 'Humaniversity'.

Its students, who receive full scholarships for tuition and living expenses, are from low-income families or disadvantaged environments all over the world.

At AIU they get the opportunity to learn valuable academic and vocational skills, while developing a strong social conscience through engagement in local community development projects.

Despite being based in Malaysia, the students, staff and curriculum at AIU are internationally representative. This is based on the philosophy that through a true synthesis of ideas from a broad range of perspectives they can promote a better understanding and cooperation between the Eastern and the Western hemispheres.

While this is obviously an admirable model for a university, there are issues that need to be considered. Currently, its success rests solely on the generosity of the organisation and the benefactors who are funding the entire venture.

That alone makes it unrealistic to recreate on a larger scale elsewhere without first securing huge amounts of philanthropy of many benefactors, or a coalition of governments.

That said, most first world countries already offer development scholarships to students from developing countries. These are designed to make an international higher education available to them and equally the skills learned from their studies might be used to further the development of their country.

In both cases, those that can are using their positions of advantage to facilitate change on an international level.

This idea of global co-operation with shared positive repercussions is really important at the moment. The international buzzword is definitely 'sustainability' and a number of institutions are making significant contributions towards environmental science, sustainability and conservation.

If you're interested in an education that can benefit others, see:

Australia - Environmental studies in Western Australia

Canada - Chemistry in Canada: now and in the future

Ireland - Environmental education: interning with UNESCO

New Zealand - Green, techno and traditional science in New Zealand

UK - Chemistry: a vital science for the future

USA - The differences in environmental science and environmental management