University for Future

With the slogan “We Apply Future”1 the University of Applied Arts Vienna (Angewandte) takes on the challenge to face the urgent issues of the global climate crisis, not least in view of our own activities. In this context our decisive tool is the potential of art: for critical thought and activism, for sharpening our senses and perception, and as a possibility for open and nuanced reflection on global and societal changes in order to access new fields and strategies of action. 

The activities of the Fridays For Future movement in Austria and internationally represent both an inspiration and mission in this endeavour; the radical formulation of the activists’ claims are in keeping with the gravity of the situation.

The Angewandte stands in solidarity and has profound respect for Fridays For Future and all the people who are tirelessly engaged to bring about the necessary turning point in climate and ecological policies for a liveable future. As a clear sign of this solidarity, the Angewandte has set itself the goal to become a University for Future – on the basis of concrete steps, the aim is to actively contribute to reaching the climate protection targets and to master the difficult times of change ahead of us.

To this end, the following key fields of action are decisive:

Research and Teaching

Like every university, the activities of the Angewandte rest upon its core competence in research and teaching. As a university of art, the transdisciplinary and creative exploration of our complex world is at the top of the agenda. The task of research is to define key thematic points in response to current challenges in society, to design work processes open towards society, and to actively and resolutely anchor the results in change-oriented public discourse. The task of teaching is to prepare graduates to proactively deal with changing conditions, to identify new contexts, and to work and collaborate in networks on a national and international level.

Steps in concrete planning (selection):
➔ expansion of the academic programme with a focus on tackling global challenges,
➔ further integration of sustainable development aspects in existing study programmes,
➔ initiating an own research promotion programme on topics relating to sustainable development.

Dialogue and Initiatives for Change

Active exchanges with society are one of the founding principles at the Angewandte. Departing from research and teaching, it is now – more than ever – committed to initiating a lively discourse with the public, in which the university provides strategic content impulses and stimulates processes of change.
The United Nations Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals provides additional orientation: The time to act is now – on national and international levels!
Steps in concrete planning (selection):
➔ establishing a publicly accessible further education programme with a focus on social change and sustainable development,
➔ cooperations with (institutional) actors, whose activities contribute to positive change in our society and environment, 
➔ facilitating inspiring spaces for exchanges on radical solutions and innovative ideas that transcend disciplinary borders and areas of responsibility,
➔ support Fridays For Future with content and, where available, spatial provisions.

The University as a Role Model

The Angewandte aims to take its social responsibility seriously, also in its own realm, and to contribute to reaching the climate protection goals. The intention is not only to reduce its own ecological footprint, but above all to raise awareness and encourage critical reflection and readiness to act. 
Steps in concrete planning (selection):
➔ elaborating an overarching sustainability strategy until 2021 that encompasses the following goals:
further development of research and teaching with higher integration of sustainable development aspects, preliminary reflection on potential direct and indirect consequences that the university’s decisions have on the climate and environment, taking into account the current state of research (e.g. IPCC reports) CO2 neutrality2 until 2030, including promotion of environmentally-friendly and low-emission mobility (e.g. creating corresponding incentives for trips to work, avoiding climate-damaging short haul flights, balancing the need of travel against climate-friendlier video and telephone conferences, etc.), transparency in all university investments regarding sustainability (to avoid, for instance, indirect investments in climate-damaging activities), support of biodiversity on the university premises, annual updates on the implementation of the strategy both internally and for the public,
➔ commitment to sustainable development in all networks of the university, in Austria and abroad,
➔ active encouragement of (partner) universities to develop towards a University for Future, too.

Proposals and Demands to the Federal Government, the Provincial Governments, and Municipalities

In light of the overwhelming challenges, the Angewandte feels increasingly obliged to formulate sound and radical proposals and demands to political decision-makers – on one hand, in response to social development on the whole,3 but also as an essential requirement to act responsibly within the realm of the university and to spur the necessary socio-ecological transformations (e.g. sustainable and climate-friendly financial instruments require a legal framework, which obliges banks to disclose their reinvestments and provides investors with real options that do not entail financial disadvantages).

The Angewandte endorses the political demands of Fridays For Future Austria4: The Federal Government must treat “the containment of the climate crisis and its severe implications as a high-priority task” and introduce concrete measures to this end, for instance:
➔ the immediate substantiation of necessary legal provisions following the declaration of the national Climate Emergency as of September 26, 2019,
➔ taking effective measures on a national, provincial, and municipal level to reach CO2 neutrality until 2030,
➔ the assessment of existing laws and regulations concerning the protection of the climate, environment, and species as well as their necessary revision to meet the 1.5°C global warming target.

Steps in concrete planning (selection):
➔ elaborating political courses of action and measures on the basis of artistic and scientific research results (in the framework of UniNEtZ and beyond),
➔ public advocacy for the implementation of the corresponding radical measures,
➔ establishing alliances with other scientific universities to expedite transdisciplinary climate-friendly approaches,
➔ promoting a profound educational reform with emphasis on sustainable development, transdisciplinary working platforms, and project work oriented upon global challenges.
1 Cf. Development Plan 2019-2024.
2 Calculated with the tool developed by the Alliance of Sustainable Universities in Austria:
3 Many unsustainable mechanisms are engrained in “imperial lifestyles” (Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen, 2017). They pervade institutions, infrastructures, and everyday practices and as such are anchored in the system (I.L.A. Kollektiv, 2017). Changes in behavioural patterns and the actions of individual citizens can only disrupt them to a limited degree. For this reason, commitment to socio-ecological transformation on the highest political levels is of utmost importance.
4 For the complete formulation of the political demands in the resolutions on the declaration of climate emergency by Fridays For Future Austria (German) see:
Open Innovation in Science Impact Lab

We live in times of multiple crises: economic crisis, ecological crisis, biodiversity crisis and crisis of distribution. As these crises intensify and amplify each other, also voices for a radical transformation of society get louder. With this in mind, the University of Applied Arts and the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft established the Open Innovation in Science Lab: „Action for Sustainable Futures (ASF) hub“, which aims to find answers for the pressing question: What could a sustainable transformation of society look like?


Course for Students

The course is oriented towards students and school classes, who would like to join the weekly Fridays for Future demonstrations without violating compulsory school attendance. The Fridays Forum is an opportunity to combine participation in the demonstrations with a complementary educational course and thereby helps to legitimise partaking in the protests.
More information here