EAUC Annual Conference Keele University

The annual EAUC Conference proved once more why it is a firm favourite for ed...
The annual EAUC Conference proved once more why it is a firm favourite for education and sustainability professionals alike last week (19th - 21st June) with an exciting new academic side to the event and an impressive line up of workshops and keynote speakers.

Held at the beautiful Keele University, the conference theme was ‘Collaborations for Change, Global Goals for Tomorrow's Education, Today’ and it certainly rang true. Workshops were collaborative and hugely inspiring, ranging from ‘Next Generation Sustainability Leadership’ to Trojan mice, hybrid buses, Living Labs and everything in between. In a series of firsts for the conference as well; this year was the first time it has had both a campus stream and an academic stream; and it was also the first year that a journal will be produced that captures all of the best practice and shared learning from presenters.
Sponsored by Carbon Credentials, the conference focus was aligned with Goal 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ‘partnerships for the goals’. Every aspect of the event highlighted the critical role academics, researchers, students, sustainability leaders and support staff in universities and colleges have to play in realising the SDGs with partnership working.

Keynote speakers included award-winning Guardian journalist, Fiona Harvey, Chancellor of Keele University and co-founder of Forum for the Future, Jonathon Porritt CBE, Honorary President of the Black Environment Network (BEN), Judy Ling Wong, and Director of the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience, Ioan Fazey. 
All of the keynote speeches were compelling in their own right, but there was a thread that ran through all of them; the need for the current disconnect society has with sustainable development to be bridged and the unique role education must play in this.
Ioan Fazey discussed the complexity of sustainability and some of the underlying issues. He talked about how the focus of sustainable development has been on knowledge and science, but it now needs to shift towards practical implementation, ethics and accountability. He urged science and society to reconnect and work together, stressing that the old ways will no longer work and we must find new ways of thinking.
Judy Ling Wong stirred emotions with her keynote address as she gave a powerful speech on the need to better integrate head and heart into sustainable development. Emphasising that the current focus on the need for evidence and quantitative data undermines the qualitative and social side of sustainability and hinders its progress. Touching on the theme of the conference, she said even those that think they cannot contribute to the sustainability agenda can give collaboration, love and partnership - and that is enough. She also spoke of the cultural value ethnic minorities bring to sustainability and called on universities and colleges to ensure they include their international students in initiatives as they bring a totally different type of thinking to projects.
Fiona Harvey summarised the business case for sustainability in one phrase: ‘How can there not be a business case to saving our planet?’ She went on to discuss how many people think environmentalism is a specialism, but this way of thinking needs to change, as it should be considered a ‘universalism’. It is not an optional extra; it is integral. She spoke of the media’s role in raising awareness of environmental issues and how they needed to reach for readers hearts to gain traction. Finishing up, she made a call for an understanding of the ‘universe’ to be put back into universities and colleges.

Jonathan Porritt closed the conference with a panel of experts discussing Innovative Research Partnerships, particularly emphasising Keele University as a pioneering model for partnership, research and learning. He went on to discuss students and the power they have as agents of change, calling on education to empower and enable them. Stressing the often-overlooked seriousness and urgency of the current sustainability situation, he said we need to move from a ‘firefighting’ approach towards concerted and planned action to stand any chance of a reversal of the damage we have already caused to the planet. He stated that it was sometimes uncomfortable to be on the front-line of sustainability, but that there was no front-line more important. Similar to Ioan, he also stressed that ‘what got us here, will not get us there’ and we need to be different.
Iain Patton, EAUC CEO, says:
"The SDGs are the world's new to-do list and this conference will inspire and empower universities and colleges to take the step- change needed.
Our students and their learning are instrumental in delivering the Global Goals and shaping all our futures. Students have the commitment and energy, so it's up to us in the lecture room and on the campus to ensure they leave our institutions with the knowledge and skills they need to become effective agents of global understanding and local action.”
Delivered by EAUC