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Climate change now in academic curriculum

MANILA, Philippines - Climate change has evolved as an academic pursuit as top agricultural academic center SEARCA and 16 international agencies have created the course Master of Science in Food Security and Climate Change or MS FSCC.

With its crucial role in national survival, food security, and disaster preparedness, international agricultural-academic experts have levelled up climate change as a higher education pursuit.

“Climate change is a global issue that exacerbates existing threats to food security and livelihoods. As Southeast Asia remains dependent on the climate-sensitive sectors of agriculture and forestry, it is now in an even more vulnerable position,” according to the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture or SEARCA.

SEARCA has announced call for application for MS FSCC starting March 2017. It will be a two-degree master’s course – one on climate change, the other on food security. 

The MS FSCC project is an initiative of the SEARCA-led Southeast Asian University Consortium (UC) for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources, a group pushing for internationalization of higher education institutions in Southeast Asia.

Since interdisciplinary skills are needed to address food security and climate change, the key pillars of the new MS curriculum will be natural sciences, agricultural and engineering techniques, and social and political disciplines.

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The MS FSCC training was finalized in a workshop held at the KU campus in Bangkok last Feb. 14-15. 

Poonpipope Kasemsap of KU heads the project, which is partially funded by the ERASMUS+ Capacity Building in Higher Education program of the European Commission.

Aside from SEARCA, the Agricultural, Veterinary and Forestry Institute of France (IAVFF-Agreenium) and AGRINATURA – the European Alliance on Agricultural Knowledge for Development – are also project partners.

  IAVFF-Agreenium is a conglomerate that pools together the competencies of all the French public agricultural and veterinary research and higher education institutions, including the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and Montpellier SupAgro. Dr. Didier Pillot of Montpellier SupAgro and vice president of AGRINATURA, was instrumental in the project development and its implementation.

Partners also include UC members KU, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), and Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) and Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB) in Indonesia, six other universities in Southeast Asia and three universities in Europe.

The other Southeast Asian universities are Royal University of Agriculture and University of Battambang in Cambodia, Nilai University in Malaysia, Central Luzon State University in the Philippines, and Prince Songkla University and Chiang Mai University in Thailand.

The European partner universities are Georg-August-University of Göttingen in Germany, Montpellier SupAgro in France, and University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) in Austria.

“We need to produce graduates who can very well fit the professional profile needed by various institutions in order to strategically respond to the two-fold concern on climate change and food security,” SEARCA director Gil Saguiguit Jr. said.

As the global atmosphere no longer have borders, SEARCA and its partners believe that climate change adaptation and mitigation solutions require international solutions.

Graduates of the new course will thus be prepared to act in different cultural, social, and institutional environments across countries and regions by internationalizing their studies through mobility.

The MS FSCC students will therefore get two degrees from two universities. They will be spending at least a month at a second university, and take a summer course, possibly at a third university.

The workshop also tackled the rules of the Educational, Audiovisual, and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the EC in relation to the grant and its implementation.

The partners also discussed the target dates for the final training tracks and the conduct of the summer course at UGM, which will be jointly organized by UGM and BOKU in July 2017.

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