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Sustainability Education

The University of Gloucestershire prides itself on its education traditions and is dedicated to the use of pedagogies that empower people to engage with and respond to complex and unpredictable global and local scenarios. As part of our commitment to sustainability, we are committed to bringing the best of current dialogues about ‘education for the future’ into our efforts across the formal curriculum, co-curriculum and our culture of institutional learning. We use the term Education for Sustainability (EfS) for our work in this area.

Our Strategic Approach to EfS

EfS is a Key Performance Indicator for the University and an important influence on our Learning and Teaching Strategy. In its Strategic Plan 2012-2017, the University committed to a staged process of embedding EfS across the curriculum, as new courses are developed and existing courses are revised and improved. The University’s Sustainability Strategy outlines the institutional approach to sustainability across both academic and corporate portfolios, including education, research, student experience and public engagement.

Learning for Sustainable Futures- Professional and Curriculum Development Scheme

In 2012 we launched a new scheme in collaboration with the Academic Development Unit, to support professional and pedagogical development across the University. Learning for Sustainable Futures projects offer small grant awards for staff, with bespoke mentoring and advice, to develop new curricula, reorient teaching practice and improve education support to students. To date LSF has supported 20 projects across the University and won a national Highly Commended place in the 2013 Green Gown awards. See examples in the LSF brochure here and further information on the scheme web pages.

 EfS and the Curriculum

The University has a tradition of EfS innovation and in 2008 EfS became a strategic education priority. To progress and support our own organisational development in EfS, we:

  • Develop approaches to EfS that make sense for different subject areas or professional pathways, with tailored support and professional development for teaching staff and teams.

  • Lead and participate in national HE projects, provide expert seminars and run high profile events; as well as sourcing guidance, funding and resources to encourage innovation.

  • Support colleagues in gaining national recognition –staff have achieved awards and shortlists for their EfS work in the competitive Green Gown awards every year from 2007 to 2012.

  • Have several National Teaching Fellows with specific interests in EfS, who have led projects in this area awarded by the Higher Education Academy and other funders.  

Learning Communities

EfS sees sustainability as a learning process that involves people, groups and organisations making sense of sustainability in relation to their changing concerns and specific scenarios. Our EfS work:

  • Involves professional bodies, national associations and international partners, as well as collaboration across our local and regional communities through the RCE Severn, our United Nations University Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) in EfS.

  • Promotes social, informal and organisational learning through the University’s Sustainability Practice, Student Union sustainability initiatives, Chaplaincy work and community projects such as the Edible Garden.

  • Universities connect with many professional and academic communities, so our responses to sustainability as a learning process take many forms. Our aim as a learning community is to develop further links with the formal curriculum through these activities.

 Our Expertise and Profile

The University is recognised as a hub of leading practice, strategic thinking and innovative projects in EfS, with several strands of activity:

  • Our strategic approach to institutional change, which led to a Green Gown award in 2010 and selection as an exemplar of leading practice by the Higher Education Academy.

  • We are regularly invited to provide expert guidance, through workshops, keynote addresses and specialist input to universities looking to advance on EfS, in the UK and worldwide.

  • Our International Research Institute in Sustainability (IRIS) works on commissioned EfS research projects for governments on several continents and international agencies such as UNESCO and the European Union, keeping us connected with global developments in EfS.

We host PhD students through scholarships and support researcher development in this area through the PRISM: Postgraduate Researchers in Sustainability Matters network.

Leading Curriculum Change for Sustainability:
National Project on EfS and Quality

 From 2010-2012 we led a groundbreaking sector project to explore how EfS could become a key educational quality priority in the future of the higher education curriculum. This was a unique initiative, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, in collaboration with the Quality Assurance Agency and five universities. Each institution developed a pilot project to find ways to connect EfS with its quality assurance and enhancement systems, in alignment with key corporate priorities and education agendas. The experiences are captured in our online resource, the Guide to Quality and Education for Sustainability in Higher Education.

Click here for the Guide to Quality and Education for Sustainability in Higher Education.

Transformative Pedagogy

At the heart of EfS is the impulse to reorient education systems so that they empower people to better understand, engage with and take action on sustainability, recognising that:
- Engagement with sustainability will be different across professions, societies, communities and organisations – and our education systems need to reflect this variety.
- Sustainability is an ideal geared to improving human prospects whilst preserving ecosystems, embracing issues as diverse as food security, wellbeing, climate change, social justice, biodiversity and corporate responsibility.

- ‘Sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’ are contested, shifting terms, used differently in fields such as conservation, urban planning, public health and international development.

- EfS connects with specialist expertise on sustainable development, but it is about more than providing people with the latest expert knowledge on high profile sustainability concerns.

- The foundations of EfS are in pedagogy: learning processes that enable people to rethink cultural patterns, critique existing practices and develop new ways of living and working. 

EfS Guide for staff
EfS is also known as Education for Sustainable Development
, Learning for Sustainability or
Education for Sustainable Futures. Its core principles are reflected in documents published by UNESCO for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UN DESD) and in our EfS Guides for staff.



Q. Are you interested in carrying out action research on your teaching practice to explore sustainability?

Q. Are you keen to discuss the ways that sustainability questions can be integrated into your subject area?

Q. Are you developing innovative teaching methodologies for sustainability?

Q. Are you exploring ways to develop staff capacity in sustainability in your business or professional group?
If so, please contact Dr Alex Ryan (  

Colleagues across the University are using innovative teaching and learning approaches to bring EfS into the curriculum:

David Booth uses sustainability principles and focus in his teaching in Landscape Architecture, specifically in landscape planning, exploring site choice, landscape and quality of life assessments and issues of capacity for development.

Bill Burford uses sustainability principles and his experience of social, cultural and environmental projects in a range of European countries, to teach the planning, design and planting of sustainable and sensorial landscapes. (

Dr Janine Dermody specialises in ‘green’ marketing, and has developed this work in her UG teaching, including group research and presentation methods.

James Derounian is a National Teaching Fellow with expertise in community and rural development, and in transformative learning to promote the engagement of people in sustainability.

Angela Kalisch is involved in sustainability education in the field of tourism, bringing sustainability perspectives and questions to bear in the global tourism management, and in teaching and learning about equitable and fair trade.(

Dr John Laurence has an interest in teaching sustainability issues within the overall perspective of strategic business management. (

Dr Kenny Lynch is Deputy Director of the Pedagogic Research and Scholarship Institute and teaches sustainable development issues with specific focus on African environments. (

Bob Moore’s expertise in the earth sciences and geographical information systems is applied to the teaching of sustainability issues in Landscape Architecture.  (

Dr Nina Reeves is a University Teaching Fellow and Course leader for Multimedia and Interactive Games Design. Her sustainability interests lead to the creation web-based learning materials to support students who may need to work remotely due to geographical or social circumstances. (

Dr Alex Ryan is Associate Director of Sustainability (Academic), supporting academic development for sustainability across disciplines and in inter-disciplinary areas in the University, with particular interest in action research and transformative learning linked to education for sustainability. (

Elisabeth Skinner is a University Teaching Fellow working with parish, town and community councils to provide local leadership in creating sustainable communities, mainly through an advanced professional qualification in community engagement and governance. (

Chris Short teaches sustainable countryside management, rural issues and green infrastructure planning, making use of active learning projects to enhance student learning processes. (

Robin Snowdon specialises in teaching sustainable design and organises the innovative Sustainable Landscape seminar series, and has held a CeAL Fellowship to draw on pedagogic research and professional input to enhance the sustainability focus of Landscape Architecture teaching at UoG. (

Dr Arran Stibbe is a University Teaching Fellow who developed an innovative ‘ecolinguistics’ approach to engaging students in critical discourse analysis about sustainability issues. (

Professor Daniella Tilbury is internationally recognised as a leading expert in ESD, specialising in learning based changes approaches, institutional development, professional competencies, as well as ESD indicators and evaluation. (

Angela Tomkins is a University Teaching Fellow who brings her interests in sustainability, employability and critical reflective practice to her teaching in leisure, tourism, events and hospitality management. (

Dr Dave Turner specializes in citizenship, inclusion and criminology and has developed a number of active learning methods for ESD, including the Green Dragons’ Den for students’ sustainable business proposals. (

Dr Sue Williams leads the MA in Leading Change and applies sustainability questions to her teaching in Human Resource Development, focusing on personal and professional development, reflective practice, and change management. (   

Learning for Sustainable Futures Scheme

The Learning for Sustainable Futures professional support programme has a new brochure which can be downloaded here.
For information about funding from 2015 onwards or to discuss project ideas please contact Dr Alex Ryan:

Learning for Sustainable Futures Event 2015
Wed 10th June, Cheltenham

Raising the Stakes in the Student Experience with EfS 
HEA Flexible Pedagogies Project

In 2013 UoG led the ‘New Pedagogical Ideas’ strand of the HEA ‘Flexible Pedagogies’ research initiative, exploring how EfS can inform the future HE curriculum in an era of flexible learning. Project outcomes include the HEA report and an invited presentation for the HEA Research and Policy seminar series, which can be accessed via slides.



HEA EfS Study- UoG Leading Practice Case Study

 A 2011 HEA review of EfS as an institutional curriculum change agenda identified UoG as one of three leading universities. Read the project report here and the UoG case study here.

Guidance Briefings for Staff: Education for Sustainability in Higher Education 

Education for Sustainability: A Guide for Educators- quick ‘how to’ guide to the use of EfS principles in the curriculum

 EfS Guide for Managers: A Guide for University Managers on Needs and Opportunities -

For more information about our EfS work please contact:

Dr Alex Ryan (Associate Director of Sustainability, Academic):


National Teaching Fellows 

Dr Arran Stibbe received a National Teaching Fellowship in 2009 to acknowledge his leading contribution to sustainability education. Arran is involved in this field at all levels: within formal education in his own field of English Language; in developing practical educational projects such as the University’s Edible Garden; and nationally, for example in the recent multi-disciplinary publication Soundings in Sustainability Literacy.


University of Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2RH. Telephone +44 (0)844 8010001.