Transformative learning experts
The scale of the sustainability challenge requires new ways of thinking and its urgency brings the need to rethink the curriculum. The challenge is to urgently create learning opportunities that empower people to influence change for sustainability in their professions and industries.
Education for Sustainability (EfS) is the field of educational practice and scholarship geared to this ambition. EfS sees sustainability as more than an optional interest or special topic, to be slotted into existing modules or courses. This approach reshapes the kind of education we provide and resets our curriculum priorities in all subjects.
To develop this capability in our graduates, we have to drive our own development as transformative learning experts for sustainability.
Our sustainability learning development
We see EfS as the future direction for academic practice and have pioneered new applied educational research in this field. To build our capacity as transformative learning experts we test and develop this practice across our course portfolio and wider educational activities.
Our strategic programme for EfS development has prioritised:
- Senior management expertise – our Director of Sustainability is an EfS specialist and collaborates with our central Academic Development Unit.
- Academic policy – EfS is embedded in the University’s Strategic Plan and our Academic Strategy, to deliver the academic goals of our Sustainability Strategy.
- Professional recognition – we have 6 National Teaching Fellows and 14 Senior Fellows of Advance HE with expertise in sustainability learning and research.
- Capacity building – our Learning Innovation for Tomorrow programme supports our course teams to experiment with EfS and embed its principles into course design.
- Training and development – EfS is part of our central academic training course, the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice. See 2020 PGCAP slides.
- Collaboration with students – we work with our Students’ Union and course representatives to gain insights, input and to co-create new curricula that meet student learning needs in EfS.
- Sector best practice – we are members of the expert group that developed the UK Quality Assurance Agency’s national guidance in EfS for all universities and colleges.
Tracking progress in EfS
EfS is new practice and universities take different paths to develop it. This means there is no established method to compare how deeply education institutions have embedded it into courses. Some may just include some relevant content on sustainability, but an EfS approach is about redesigning the whole course from its top level aims right down to the assessment process.
Our academic sustainability objectives are about this deeper redesign. They are annually reviewed and achievements across our academic schools feature in our Annual Sustainability Report.
By 2019 all our academic schools had joined our LIFT capacity building programme – 50% of senior course cluster leads plus 33% of course leaders had delivered new EfS course developments.
The wider sector is also progressing, with the 2019 People & Planet league table awarding scores for sustainability in the curriculum to 136 of 154 UK universities – 48 institutions scored over 50% and 31 institutions scored over 75% for their depth of integration.