Higher Education and Peacebuilding

Many of the colleges and universities in the United Board’s network are embedded in communities shaped by conflict or tension, which reflect ethnic, cultural, or religious differences or political or economic competition. Leaders and faculty of these institutions may aspire to play the role of peacebuilder, and their commitment to addressing the roots of conflict and eliminating barriers to understanding may be seen in the diversity of their student body, course offerings, pedagogical style, and personal demeanor.

Sansom Milton[i], a specialist in higher education, conflict, and post-conflict recovery, describes three ways in which higher education institutions can act as peacebuilders in their societies.

  • “First, the teaching function is the most direct way in which higher education can support economic recovery, which is viewed as a major pillar of effective peacebuilding.” Milton points out that conflict can have a major negative impact on human capital, and that universities play an instrumental role in producing “the graduates with advanced knowledge and skills to re-pool this human capital base.”
  • “Second, higher education can directly support peacebuilding through teaching in specialized fields related to peace and conflict.” In this way, colleges and universities can supply the staff for nongovernmental organizations, international agencies, and other organizations engaged in peacebuilding.
  • “Third, the pedagogical dimension of teaching at the higher education level can support (or undermine) peacebuilding.” Milton suggests that participatory learning approaches, including student-centered classes, have the potential to foster communicative skills and competencies that can support peacebuilding.[ii]

Through whole person education, educators hope to nurture among their students a spirit of compassion, equity, reconciliation, social responsibility, and mutual respect – qualities that are essential in the work of peacebuilding. The stories below feature individuals who have participated in United Board-supported programs and who, by combining new knowledge and skills with a personal commitment to peacebuilding, have been able to encourage their students and colleagues to explore new ways to link the classroom and the community in peacebuilding efforts.

The following stories feature individuals in the United Board’s network who are engaged in peacebuilding:

Readers may also be interested in information on the United Board’s support for peace education and its cooperation with the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute.

[i] Sansom Milton is a senior research fellow at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. See https://www.dohainstitute.edu.qa/EN/People/Academic-Affairs/CHS/Pages/Faculty/Sansom-Milton.aspx

[ii] Sansom Milton, “Higher education, conflict causation and post-conflict peacebuilding,” in Universities and Conflict: The Role of Higher Education in Peacebuilding and Resistance, ed. Juliet Millican (London and New York: Routledge, 2018), 44-62.