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What I Need v What the World Needs: The matter of Tertiary Education and the SDGs

New Models in Tertiary Education in the UK: the London Interdisciplinary School and 

Black Mountains College. 

While the Sustainable Development Goal number 4 outlines milestones with the aims to provide universal education at primary and secondary levels, we also have a real need to consider tertiary education. The purpose of this blog is to share two new, unconventional models that aim to produce the upcoming generation of leaders equipped to handle the growing nature of challenges that face us. 


Tertiary education in the UK classically offers students three or more years of immersion in one or two subjects. Both these new models, offering different visions, are united in the acknowledgement that the tertiary education will benefit from transformative approaches.  Real-time, experiential learning and a range of subjects tackling global problems are shared innovations. In other ways, they differ. LIS prepares students for a world of work that welcomes the disruptive but does so by partnering with major institutions like the Metropolitan Police Service and companies such as Virgin. Black Mountains College offers a possibly more radical experience, with an exposure to neuroscience which will allow students to identify their learning profiles as they progress. 


The London Interdisciplinary School, based in central London offers new model of tertiary education. Launching in 2020, LIS offers students the chance to tackle problems with degrees that are no longer ‘subject’ based but question based. Supported by a team of top academics and business leaders, the consensus at LIS is that the problems we face can only be solved through an interdisciplinary approach. Malaria for example, is not just about mosquitoes carrying parasites, but includes knowledge of international relations, gene editing, ecosystems, probabilistic thinking and so on. This polymath, systems-thinking approach can be the catalyst for potential solutions. LIS offers a 3 year undergraduate course allowing students to produce practical solutions throughout their educational tenure.  

  • no foundational course (for now), 

  • entrance requirements to be defined but will be selective,

  • fees in line with UK universities,

  • campus in London 

  • parterships with businesses

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Black Mountains College

Another model in development, inspired by Quest University Canada as well as the original Black Mountain College in North Carolina (1933-1957), is Black Mountains College (BMC) – a new, higher educational institution set in the Welsh countryside in the Brecon Beacons National Park.


Founded by writers Owen Sheers and Ben Rawlence, Black Mountains College currently offers summer courses and plans the first intake of undergraduates in 2024. Ben spoke to us about BMC’s forward-thinking pedagogical approach, plans, and opportunities. Ben explained that Black Mountains College is a new, radical solution we need in order to course-correct as we hurtle toward an unsustainable future. BMC will be a new approach to higher education – a truly interdisciplinary, immersive educational experience with neuroscience, ecology and the arts as the foundation. Classes take place outdoors on the basis that coding for learning while experiencing all of the imprinting ‘distractions’ of the outdoors, greatly increases one’s memory for what is being taught.


During the first year, students figure out their particular learning style which they can then continue to work with during the course of their lives. Teaching is the cornerstone of the college, not research.  A lot of what BMC are offering requires  ‘unlearning’ as we need to radically rethink what preparation for the world of work really entails shaping graduates working on solutions to the large-scale social, economic, and environmental disruptions facing us. This new approach to undergraduate education is designed to spark creative and adaptive thinking in tune with nature. 




We think we can all agree that we urgently need solutions to the complex, local and global issues we face. Stay tuned as these educational endeavours develop, and with them, the imaginative and inventive future leaders of tomorrow. #GoalsForGood

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