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Leading Curriculum Change for Sustainability

October 2010 - September 2012
Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Funded Project


Leading Curriculum Change for Sustainability focused on the interface between Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and the processes for quality enhancement and assurance in Higher Education. The aim was to produce strategic guidance for universities and HE stakeholders, to drive ESD innovation and leadership for sustainability in HE.  The project tackled this agenda at three levels:

  • Sectoral – building capacity and involvement for sustainability education with key sector agencies such as the Quality Assurance Agency and Higher Education Academy.
  • Institutional – supporting changes to academic practice and curriculum development within the five partner institutions.
  • Individual – engaging academic leaders and developers across the sector and experts working on this agenda globally.

The project was led by the University of Gloucestershire and funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The project team involved collaboration among five partner institutions: Aston University, University of Brighton, University of Exeter, University of Gloucestershire and Oxford Brookes University.

Project Lifecycle: October 2010 to September 2012 


The core project output is now live and can be viewed here. This interactive resource contains tips, tools and talking heads from the five pilot institutions and key voices from across the HE sector. Its aim is to support universities in bringing EfS to life as a strategic education quality priority. 


Sustainability issues continue to rise up the global agenda, suggesting the need to rethink our present patterns of life. Our education and learning systems are critical to progress on sustainability and the HE sector has produced ground-breaking research and excellent corporate practice in this area.

However, progress on the curriculum in relation to sustainability has been slow. Demand appears to be increasing among students, whilst employers are in need of graduates who will be able to meet complex sustainability challenges in all professional and business contexts.

The imperative seems clear, but the complexity of sustainability raises challenges for senior managers and academic leaders. ESD is geared to changing educational systems so that the future of excellent academic practice includes the sustainability imperative.

Processes that ensure the quality of academic provision form a key strategic arena for integrating principles of sustainability education. Strategic work to reorient graduate skills and capabilities will address all subject areas, to bring sustainability more firmly into academic development processes. This project uses action learning approaches to promote dialogue, develop understanding and build capacity for change within the sector on this important agenda.



The project was supported by the HEFCE Leadership, Governance and Management Fund as the only major project tackling education and curriculum development as part of the Leading Sustainable Development in Higher Education (LSDHE) national funding initiative.  HEFCE’s vision is that within the next 10 years the HE sector in England will be recognised as a major contributor to society’s efforts to achieve sustainability through, among other things, the skills and knowledge that its graduates learn and put into practice. Leading Curriculum Change for Sustainability  is a major  initiative to promote education for sustainable development in universities and colleges that will help HEFCE achieve its vision.


For further information on the project team and institutional partners, as well as the landscape and stakeholders for the project, please visit our web pages in the menu on the left side of this page

Photograph courtesy of Jon Barlow Ltd


Project Summary

A leaflet outlining the content and focus of this project and its outputs can be downloaded here


New Publication

The project featured as a commissioned article in the 2013 Special Issue of  the Curriculum Journal on progress in ESD in the lead up to Rio+20.

To access the article please click here

The full citation is listed here.  






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