Development and Delivery of a Sustainable Development Unit in UK Universities: A Higher Education’s Guide for Future Sustainability Leaders

Michalopoulou, Eleni, Tierney, Aisling, Atkins, Ed, Stanmore, Tabitha, Ma, Lin, Jester, Natalie ORCID: 0000-0002-7995-3028 and Preist, Chris (2021) Development and Delivery of a Sustainable Development Unit in UK Universities: A Higher Education’s Guide for Future Sustainability Leaders. In: Universities, Sustainability and Society: Supporting the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. World Sustainability Series . Springer Nature, Switzerland. ISBN 9783030633981

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We are now in the era of the Anthropocene (Crutzen 2002) where humans are characterised as a “force significant enough to reshape the face of the Earth” (Clark et al. 2005). In 2015 the United Nations (UN), following a long history of discussions around Sustainable Development (SD), established the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (United Nations 2015; Sachs 2012). These goals reflect our societies’ biggest concerns and aim to address humanity’s biggest challenges such as poverty(SDG 1), inequalities (SDG 10) and climate change (SDG 13). One key role that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have to play in this era of the SDGs is in relation to SDG 4 (Quality Education). As educators, we foster the leaders and SDG champions of tomorrow. As a result, it is imperative that these graduates have an excellent understanding of the complexity of sustainability, the urgency of global challenges and, most importantly, the impacts these challenges will have on different societies. One way to help address this is by increasing student engagement with sustainability within the HE curriculum and ESD. HE institutions must strengthen this link between Education in Sustainable Development (ESD), society and SDGs in order to ensure that graduates are appropriately equipped to tackle a variety of challenges, reflected in the different SDG targets. With both student and institutional demand for more ESD-related courses and programs increasing, this paper presents, in detail, the development and delivery of an award winning, blended learning ESD unit at the University of Bristol: the Sustain21 able Development Unit (SDU). It provides information to encourage and enable other HEIs to replicate this unit, or develop their own. Such knowledge exchange between HEIs can be critical, as it can allow for less time spent in the development stage of such initiatives and more time on the delivery. This in turn can mean that more graduate cohorts are graduating with the skills needed to address societal challenges. Finally, this paper presents a detailed evaluation of the unit from the perspective of students and staff alike, which can help other educators to benefit from the learnings made during the development and delivery of three runs of the SDU. The University of Bristol was one of the first UK universities to commit to the SDG accord on 9th September 2017 (SDG Accord 2020), and on 17th April 2019 it became the first UK university to declare a climate emergency (BBC 2019; Walsh et al. 2020). The Institution has committed to delivering high quality, research-led teaching that aims to provide students with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to become future problem-solvers of these global challenges (Tierney et al. 2015; Michalopoulou et al. 2019). However, SD is not only an “end result”: it is also a means to enable society to address contemporary challenges. Therefore, any endeavour that sets out to explore the SDGs or local or global challenges must do so through the same frameworks it tries to explore. For this reason, the SDU was created with respect to, and in accordance with, the SDGs. This paper will present the SDU developed as part of the Bristol Futures: Sustain41 able Futures pathway. It will discuss how this unit was developed, how it is delivered and which SDGs and theoretical concepts it aims to present to the students, continuing the analysis of previous work (Michalopoulou et al. 2019). Additionally, this paper will present which SDGs are used for the development and delivery of this unit.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Education; Sustainable development; Curriculum; Global challenges; Blended learning
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Business, Computing and Social Sciences
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Nat Jester
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2020 14:34
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2023 12:49

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