Accelerating Education for the SDGs: New Higher Education Sector Guidance on ESD

EAUC Trustees Simon Kemp and Jim Longhurst were centrally involved in developing the new QAA Guidance for the Higher Education Sector on Education for Sustainable Development. They advised the QAA and Advance HE that the time was right for a review and update of the guidance, they recommended appointments to the Advisory Group and served as part of the five person editorial team alongside Kate Mori, Kay Hack and Patrick Baughan, finalising the update of the guidance for publication.

Simon and Jim share an outline of the Guidance below.

What is the background to this Guidance?

This is the second edition of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and Advance HE ESD Guidance for Higher Education Providers, first published in 2014. This UK wide guidance has been prepared by representatives of the HE, business and student communities with expertise in education and sustainable development. A draft version was subject to sector-wide consultation from November 2020 to January 2021.

How is the Guidance structured?

The guidance is divided in to four sections, Section 1 provides an introduction to ESD including discussion of the SDGs. Section 2 discusses how to get started with ESD, while recognising the importance of strategic, institution-level commitment. Section 3 focuses on teaching, learning and assessment approaches for ESD. It introduces the key competencies for sustainability, course and module learning outcomes for ESD and guidance about developing learning environments to support ESD. Section 4 provides users with a range of references and resources.

How does this work support individual universities to implement ESD?

The guidance is intended to be of practical help to all higher education providers working with students and staff to foster their knowledge, understanding and skills in the area of sustainable development. It recognises that there are many ways in which this may be achieved and is not prescriptive about delivery. Instead, it offers many authentic ideas and examples intended to inspire, inform and enable ESD to be introduced and used in the curriculum design process, and for facilitating ESD as central to curricula framework and part of a whole-institution approach.

Following the launch in March 2021, QAA and Advance HE, in collaboration with UK universities, are now developing a range of case studies and webinars to further support academic staff in implementing ESD within their curricula, thereby building on the ideas set out in the document in ‘real life’ contexts. This guidance provides examples for those new to ESD and those with expertise looking to expand their consideration of ESD. It is also of value to senior management teams, those with responsibility for quality assurance and enhancement, and staff involved in directing teaching and learning. It may also prove useful to staff responsible for extracurricular activities.

Executive Summary available here
Full document available for QAA Members and Advance HE members available here.

This is the first of a series of blog posts and events around the new QAA guidance and supporting education for sustainable development more widely. Please contact if you would like to receive our fortnightly newsletter to be kept informed of our work in this area, or to be added to our JiscMail Lists focusing on Education for Sustainable Development.
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