United World Colleges
OWA Grand Prix Winner 2017

The United World Colleges in Germany, India and worldwide consider themselves a movement. So far 16 UWC colleges have been set up all over the world offering education to some 9.000 students from more than 150 countries. Already its mission leaves no doubt that UWC colleges and schools are qualified to receive the OWA Grand Prix award: “UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”. Among the colleges the ones in Freiburg/Germany and Pune/India have been nominated and chosen by the jury to receive the OWA award statue and share the prize money. In order to “personalize” the laureate and to represent the educative movement we have chosen three students from Freiburg and two faculty members from Pune to represent the colleges worldwide. We introduce the three students with their own words:

Zachary Wakefield from Los Angeles/USA: “Living in a community that includes students from underprivileged backgrounds and vulnerable nations facing similar problems to California has permanently altered my perspective on the formidability and importance of initiatives to combat climate change.”

Miriam Abel from Bonn/Germany: “To enact positive societal change I have understood from a young age that human kind must first learn to live in a way that preserves the earth and its resources. I enjoy a lot the experience of extraordinary diversity and challenge opportunities UWC offers young people.”

John Michael Koffi from the Democratic Republic of Kongo: “At the age of 11 my family was forced to leave our home due to war and instability. We live now as refugees in Swasiland. Studying at UWC has allowed me to tie politics to economic, ecological and technological sustainability.”


The UWC in Pune is represented by Ashwin Paranjpe. He is in charge of all the sustainability projects and also runs an organic farm and a community supported agriculture project with his family. Ann Jyothis is the faculty member in charge of the courses on environmental systems and societies.

The UWC in Freiburg opened its doors only in September 2014 and is named after the visionary Robert Bosch whose Bosch Foundation is the key donor of the college. It has obviously a kind of leadership role among the UWC colleges with regard to the broad context of sustainability. In the former Cartheasean monastery dating back to 1345 students, teachers and volunteers worked together to rebuild the “Klostergarten”. Under professional guidance student teams like the “garden maintainance team”, the “politunel growers”, the “compost mushroom helpers” and the “woodworkers” have created an ecological paradise. The students enjoy and learn a lot from the curriculum focus on sustainability.

Education is the mightiest weapon to change the world

The so-called CAS project activities outside the college benefit local communities and are often connected to ecology and sustainability. When it comes to sustainability the UWC in Pune may rival Freiburg. The Mahindra college is named after its key supporter the Mahindra Foundation founded by the entrepreneurs Keshub Mahindra & Anand Mahindra. Resource saving efforts are successful with solar energy as well as as water conservation. Waste separation and soil conservation are also high on the agenda. A lot of creativity is invested to reduce the college’s carbon footprint. A biological water treatment plant is purifying waste water to nearly drinking water quality. An organic garden on campus is cared for with a local farming cooperative coordinated by Ashwin. An environmental highlight is the biodiversity park and reserve on campus.

One third of the 175-acreage of the campus is dedicated to the park which is part of the greater western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. Staff, students and faculty have planted over 100.000 native trees in the park and on campus. The park is becoming rapidly a growing core habitat for plants and animals threatened from extinction.

The students work in their Akshara projects in several villages and with all age groups. Some 500 people are benefitting from the student involvement. All these activities combined with the sustainability classes organized by Ann provide a solid foundation for future leaders that most UWC-students will become.

The vision & mission as well as the objectives and the daily life at the United World Colleges match remarkably well with the OWA objectives. What makes the laureate special is the fact that the young generation receives the recognition. The colleges prove the conclusion of UWC Honorary President, late Mr. Nelson Mandela: ”Education is the mightiest weapon to change the world”.