On 30 July 2012, the United Nations University (UNU) marked a milestone in its postgraduate degree programme initiative with a graduation ceremony for the inaugural cohort of UNU master’s degree students. Three students successfully completed the two-year Master of Science in Sustainability, Development and Peace programme of the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP, Tokyo).
Since 1975, UNU has trained more than 7,500 postgraduate fellows in various areas of specialization; these students typically have received a “certificate of completion” or “diploma”. It was not until December 2009 that the United Nations General Assembly approved an amendment to the UNU Charter explicitly authorizing the University to “grant and confer master’s degrees and doctorates”.
Based on this Charter amendment, and the University Postgraduate Programme and Awards Statute developed in 2010, UNU-ISP launched UNU’s inaugural master’s degree programme in September 2010. The UNU Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS, Yokohama) followed in September 2011 with a Master of Science in Environmental Governance with Specialization in Biodiversity programme. Both of these postgraduate degree programmes have benefitted from support from the Japanese government.
Other UNU institutes around the world are developing MSc and PhD degree programmes that will start in 2012 or 2013.
The three members of the UNU-ISP Class of 2012 who received their UNU Master of Science degree at the 30 July graduation ceremony were Pradip Thapa (Nepal), Socheat Penh (Cambodia) and Desajado Moises Lopes (Guinea Bissau).
Johanna Diwa, UNU-ISP Programme Associate, acted as MC of the ceremony, which featured addresses by Koïchiro Matsuura, former Director-General of UNESCO (who played a pivotal role in the formation of the UNU educational programme), and Dr. Monte Cassim, Vice‑Chancellor of Ritsumeikan Trust, Japan (who continues to assist and advise the UNU-ISP educational programmes).
UNU Rector Konrad Osterwalder, who presented the students with their MSc degree certificates, congratulated them as well as the faculty and administrative staff involved in the master’s degree programme. He expressed his satisfaction at this important moment in realizing a vision for UNU, whereby the introduction of postgraduate degrees complements the university’s role as a think tank, and UNU graduates will directly enhance capacities, particularly in developing countries.
UNU-ISP Director Kazuhiko Takeuchi hailed this as a “defining moment for our institute”. The evolution of UNU-ISP will continue, he noted, with introduction of a new PhD in Sustainability Science programme; the institute’s first doctoral candidates will arrive in September 2012.
Academic Programme Director Dr. Srikantha Herath delivered a detailed and comprehensive report on the UNU-ISP MSc Programme and shared a synopsis of the work carried out by the students during their two-year study period at UNU-ISP.
A two-hour video of the UNU-ISP MSc degree programme graduation ceremony can be viewed online.