Supporting the role of universities in leading individual and societal transformation through education for sustainable development

Elizabeth A. C. Price, Rehema M. White, Kate Mori, James Longhurst, Patrick Baughan, Carolyn S. Hayles, Georgina Gough, Chris Preist

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Abstract

There is growing recognition of the value of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) for all learners, and of the unique role that universities play in the transformation of individuals, institutions and societies towards more sustainable futures. Universities engage and even lead in several areas: education, research and community engagement, all of which are essential in this transformation. Further, given their focus and influence, universities are pivotal to action needed to realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but, to date, UK university integration of ESD and engagement with the SDGs is relatively limited. In recognition that a more urgent and meaningful response is needed to deliver the 2030 targeted socio-economic transformation outlined by the SDGs, the UK ESD Guidance has been comprehensively revised to support universities to deliver education which enables students to acquire sustainability competencies, equipping them to play leadership roles in an increasingly uncertain world. In this case study, we critically analyse the role of universities and explore why ESD needs to be more urgently integrated in teaching and learning. We review the barriers to achieving ESD in UK universities at political and institutional levels. Finally, we explore the policy-practice interface and outline how the new UK ESD Guidance can support universities in leading individual and societal transformation through ESD and act as a stimulus for embedding ESD in university curricula in both UK and international contexts. We conclude that universities have as yet unfulfilled potential to explore and facilitate ESD for sustainability leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Article number49
Number of pages16
JournalDiscover Sustainability
Volume2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2021

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