Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and FutureLearn partner to empower 100,000 students in UNESCO learning cities with Education for Sustainable Development

Photo of Jo Johnson

New York, USA – 20 SEPTEMBER 2023 – On 20 September 2023, at an official side event of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and FutureLearn announced a partnership to accelerate Education for Sustainable Development in UNESCO learning cities. In a landmark campaign, FutureLearn, a member of the Global University Systems’ network of institutions, will provide free access to online courses on sustainable development issues for 100,000 lifelong learners in UNESCO learning cities across the globe.  

‘The challenges our planet faces can only be effectively addressed when each and every one of us possesses the knowledge and skills essential for driving personal and societal transformation required to change course. Education for Sustainable Development is key to this endeavour,’ underlined Mr Raul Valdes Cotera, Chief Programme Coordinator a.i. at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, in his video message to the side event. ‘I am therefore excited that, through our collaboration with Global University Systems and FutureLearn, 100,000 learners from UNESCO learning cities across the globe will acquire the essential skills to champion sustainable development,’ he continued. 

The UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) encompasses 292 cities across 76 countries, including megacities, like Shanghai and Bogotá, to smaller municipalities, like Mantes-la-Jolie and Mayo Baleo. The network provides a platform for members to exchange inspiration, know-how and examples of best practice on inclusive and quality lifelong learning. One of the key themes promoted by the network is Education for Sustainable Development.

As part of the partnership, UNESCO learning cities will be attracting local participants to upskill on environmental and sustainability matters by taking advantage of FutureLearn’s courses in these vital subject areas. Participants will benefit from free access to the courses at an accelerated pace, quality testing to assess what they have learned, and the opportunity to receive a digital Certificate of Achievement upon successful course completion. 

Rt. Hon. Jo Johnson, FutureLearn’s Chairman, says: ‘FutureLearn is proud to support UNESCO’s learning cities initiative. Over the next 24 months, participants will have access to a curated collection of online short courses from leading British and global universities, all focused on the themes of ‘sustainability’ and ‘climate change’. This invaluable opportunity comes at no cost to learners, and seeks to elevate sustainability and climate awareness within learning cities and their respective countries.’

This initiative was made possible through the generous support of our UK and international university partners who offered free access to their sustainability courses: the University of Leeds, the University of Reading, the University of Groningen, UCL, the University of York, Hanken School of Economics and Deakin University Australia.

Yuliya Etingen, Chief Impact Officer at Global University Systems, commented: ‘At Global University Systems, we encourage every institution in our network to work towards UN Sustainability Goals. We are delighted that FutureLearn can use its scale to equip 100,000 learners from UNESCO learning cities with the skills and knowledge to drive sustainable change. This collaboration underscores our group commitment to providing accessible, high-quality education that makes a positive impact on a global scale.’

About the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities

292 cities from all world regions are members in the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities. Connecting education, training and cultural institutions, and engaging a wide range of partners such as public-sector representatives, civil society organisations and employers, is a key feature of UNESCO learning cities. They effectively mobilise resources in every sector to promote inclusive and quality learning, from basic to higher education. They revitalise learning in families and communities, and facilitate learning for and in the workplace while extending the use of modern learning technologies.

If you are a citizen of a UNESCO Learning City and would like more information about the free UNESCO sustainability courses collection, please visit our Help Centre. Check out our UIL partner page on FutureLearn to find out more.
For media enquiries, please contact

Related stories on FutureLearn

FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now