University of Development Studies


Global South




The Model

What is the institute’s sustainability approach?

UDS is designed around the ethos of being ‘pro-poor’, with the mission of achieving sustainable development goals in Ghana by providing Education for Sustainable Development. A multi-campus, decentralized government and administration approach aims to reach citizens - as students, and via societal outreach - of a variety of regions UDS’s societal-facing approach centers around the Third Trimester Field Practical Program (TTFPP), a mandatory semester of community engagement for all students. An entire trimester is devoted to practical field work where students live and work in a local community. The first year curriculum is spent studying the target community and its needs, which are then addressed practically in the community for one semester per year, over 3 consecutive years of study. UDS has also initiated a policy which aims to promote the recruitment of students from northern Ghana, the region of lowest socioeconomic development, with further initiatives made to promote the admission of women from this region.

transition process

Activities and Development Process

What is the institute’s overall culture of sustainability and their long-term vision for the future?

In-line with the mandate through which UDS was formed in 1992, the university aims to blend the academic world with that of the community for the development of (northern) Ghana. Students are considered change agents for sustainable development via their field work, and are integrated in local communities in northern Ghana to deepen their understanding of and engagement in this region.

How does the institute translate their sustainability vision into a sustainability agenda?

During the TTFPP, students are divided into interdisciplinary teams to work in different, rural parts of Ghana, with the aim of building capacities for teamwork, self-sufficiency in the field, and ‘real-world’ problem-solving skills. The teams of students are allocated to a community they visit for seven weeks each Third Trimester in 3 consecutive years of study.

What are the institute’s short-term practices and programmes which achieve their sustainability mission?

Before beginning the TTFPP, students are trained during their first year of studies in community studies - such as the development of community profiles - and field and analytic research and engagement methods. Second year students work together with communities through participatory methods to identify community challenges, and work together on development projects to help the community solve these issues. Since 2011, each faculty decides how third year students spend their time, which can be via internships or completing fieldwork from their first two years.


Sustainability and Setting

What is the culture of sustainability at the country-level?

Due to its geographic location and state of socioeconomic development, Ghana is considered critically vulnerable to climate change with 1 million additional people at risk of falling into poverty due to climate-related causes. The poverty rate is already estimated at 27% of the population. Ghana has shown some intention to transition to a green economy and promote sustainable development through the implementation of a number of related policies and strategies, such as their 2013 National Climate Change Policy. However, a lack of adequate long-term policies, inadequate funding and weak institutions are seen as national-level hinderances to sustainable development.

In which regional context is the institution situated, and what is their policy or activities of integration within the broader community?

The catchment area of the university covers the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions of Ghana, the most impoverished regions of the country in absolute and relative terms. Climate change impacts in the region are particularly severe, exacerbated by floods, drought, and a lack of water management and sanitation infrastructure. The Northern Ghana Integrated Development Project, funded primarily by the EU, seeks to support climate adaptation in small-holder agriculture, promoting employment programs and social protection. UDS itself and the TTFPP was established in service of sustainable development of the region.

What is the institutional context of engaging with sustainability and experimenting with reorganisation or alternative governance approaches?

UDS was established with a mandate to blend its academic work with that of the surrounding community in order to facilitate sustainable development of Northern Ghana. The university has a Faculty of Sustainable Development Studies, which itself offers BSc. and MSc degrees. The UDS, together with the UNDP, has led a task-force on sustainable development in northern Ghana, with an aim towards poverty eradication.

Process and Approach

Development Timespan

What was the time-line and process of development and implementation of the sustainability approach?

The UDS was established in 1992 by the Ghanaian government, with the field work program present from its initiation. UDS’s governance structure remains in evolution, with a quality assurance and accountability structure for governance implemented in 2008. In 2011, in response to a need for more discipline-specific training for students, the TTFPP was restructured. Third year tasks were incorporated into work during the second year of study, and each faculty was given discretion to determine how third year students should spend their third trimester.


Drivers and Challenges

What were the motivations for developing the approach?

The main driver for UDS’s activities is the need for universities and research institutions to play a more direct and active role in addressing societal problems. While embedded in communities via field work and engaged in national strategic planning for the region.

What are some challenges that arose?

UDS is challenged by a lack of federal funding, a lack of internal incentive structures for academics to engage in community work, a lack of systematic assessment of labor market needs in northern Ghana and minimal co-operation between the UDS and regional employers. Furthermore, oversight, accountability and quality assurance of the university’s governance has not been fully realized, in-part due to a shortage of qualified personnel.

Add to the Atlas

Submit an institution

This atlas is intended to grow and evolve in a spirit of co-creation with the international higher education community. We encourage you to submit examples of sustainability approaches or initiatives at your own or other institutes.

Add to the Atlas