Education for Sustainable Development – students want more, BU Vision and Values highlights our ambitions, so can we up our game?

The results of the fifth NUS student survey reveal students’ attitudes towards sustainable development: 80% of students said that they want their institutions to be doing more on sustainability, and 60% want to learn more about it.

So are we doing enough at BU and how could we do more?

BU 2018 articulates the vision:

We need to be “inspiring our students and staff to enrich the world…” developing…“a holistic approach to SD” (p30)… while also ensuring “our environmental credentials are held in high esteem.”

Through education, we need to “ensure that graduates develop a global perspective and understand the need for sustainable development by seeking to embed sustainable development across the curriculum” (BU 2018; 19)

The commitment is clear but are we doing enough, both within the curriculum and in the extra-curricular sphere? Does your unit consider sustainable development? Are you enabling your students to ‘make a contribution to the world’ but falling short in the provision of knowledge and skills for sustainable development?

Further, are we missing opportunities to align ‘campus-greening’ efforts, and the substantial work led by the Estates team to gain Eco-Campus Platinum accreditation, with students’ learning and engagement? Perhaps our campus could become a ‘living lab’? Perhaps we could be more creative in fusing academic knowledge with professional practice?

If the aspiration is to graduate influential citizens, who value the world and appreciate that they have a responsibility to sustain it, what should we be considering from an education perspective?

A forthcoming CEL workshop will reflect on some of these questions but in the meantime a little more to ponder on:

Caring for people and planet assumes some affective learning outcomes (values of the heart) – do we consider affective outcomes (not just cognitive) in our unit specs? What would be the challenges for assessment?

How could we encourage more engagement with ‘citizenship’ – democratic processes and community engagement (fusing professional practice, education & research)?

Does your pedagogy:

  • Inspire futures thinking? We want our students to lead transformation in society and be equipped for a future that is uncertain
  • Help students explore choices in decision making and the risks of alternative course of action, for people and planet, now and in the future?
  • Enable inter-connections between local/global and ‘self’ in relation to ‘other’ to be explored
  • Encourage the sharing of diverse perspectives


A lot to think about! My feeling is that we could do more and go further to develop ourselves and our students, to secure a brighter future.

Professor Chris Shiel


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