The Himalayan University Consortium: Building Knowledge and Capacity for Mountains

David Molden and *Ashok Gurung

* HUC Steering Committee Member and Professor at the New School, New York, USA

25 October 2016

At ICIMOD we recognise the exceptional nature of mountains: the rich diversity of people, rich resources, the natural beauty, and the importance of the Hindu Kush Himalayas to Asia. We also know that mountain areas have exceptional challenges: vulnerability to climate change, disasters, outmigration, environmental degradation, and persistent poverty to name a few. And we know that while mountains are a source of inspiration and traditional knowledge, they are often outside the sphere of academic systems. We have not yet been able to build sufficient knowledge and critical mass of skilled people to address mountain challenges. 

Present education systems don’t necessarily address the exceptional nature of mountains. Mountains are different – people live in isolated and fragile environments, people need different strategies for their livelihoods, and traditional systems are changing as mountain people struggle to cope with globalisation. These mountain specificities are not necessarily dealt with in curricula that are necessary to educate and bring about positive changes.

Mountains have historically been meeting places, between traders, cultures, and between countries. Simply stated – mountains connect. The Hindu Kush Himalayan connects Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.  Those connections will help us tackle global and regional challenges before us. Not only do we have to face mountain challenges, but more importantly we have to recognise the full potential that mountains offer. 

The Himalayan University Consortium provides us a means to bring our best minds to bear on mountains, generate mountain knowledge and put it to use for a shared common goal of sustainable futures.  HUC aims to provide opportunity to inspire, enable, and empower youth to address their future. The Himalayan University Consortium will:


  • help develop and support innovative curricula on HKH specific issues; 
  • help generate new mountain knowledge by encouraging and supporting collaborative research and enhance knowledge sharing amongst scholars and professionals;
  • promote and support new knowledge networks involving students, scholars for exchange of new ideas, collaborative research, and innovative solutions; 
  • strategically support institutional capacity of universities based in the mountains;
  • bring issues of mountains to the forefront of science and policy discussions; and,
  • develop a new generation of mountain scholar-leaders. 

Let us envision that in five years we will have 500 HUC world-class scholar-leaders, who have worked in different HKH countries, who have deep knowledge and skills on mountain topics, who have made connections across countries, and who will be leaders in their own countries and communities.  In doing so, we will have built an important pool of resources positioned to dream and deliver a more sustainable future.


ICIMOD is proud to facilitate and incubate HUC as it grows. It’s exciting to see the potential of such a consortium as HUC is gaining momentum with over 40 universities as members. While we recognise that turning the idea to reality takes time, we see that the reality of HUC is happening now.

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