University of Strathclyde and the new Education for Sustainable Development Guidance

Scott Strachan, one of our Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Topic Support Network Convenors and a Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Strathclyde, was asked about how the new QAA / Advance HE Guidance for the Higher Education Sector on ESD and will influence their work at the University.

Following the success of the University of Strathclyde’s Vertically Integrated Projects for Sustainable Development (VIP4SD) programme in securing the 2020 International Green Gown Award for Student Engagement and the AASHE Campus Sustainability Research Award, and its growing staff/student support, it is now scaling up and mainstreaming interdisciplinary, student-centred, research-based SDG projects across the Institution. This will provide a platform for our students to continue to collaborate and deliver impact on a range of wicked, real world SDG-related research challenges.

The VIP4SD programme has been pivotal in paving the way for a broader ESD agenda to emerge at Strathclyde (ESD@Strath), as evidenced in our Vision 2025, which aims to “place ESD aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at the heart of our curricula” – and so the new QAA/Advance HE ESD guidelines have arrived at a key point in Strathclyde’s journey to make good on this strategic commitment.

An ESD working group has been established within our recently launched Centre for Sustainable Development to develop an ESD action plan, and the new guidelines are already proving useful in shaping the group’s thinking on the best approach to take towards surfacing and promoting existing ESD-related activity; underlining the value of ESD in reinforcing other institutional objectives; and building a community of practice and staff/student support network to deliver on this commitment.

The wealth of experience, good practice and advice that makes up this guidance will provide HEIs with the blueprint to create their own ESD roadmap regardless of where they currently are on that journey. However, in comparison to its previous 2014 incarnation, I feel the guidance now represents more than this; it is a statement – a symbol – of strengthening support from the QAA, a fast growing community of practice, but critically, it represents a significant shift from advocacy to action in embedding and mainstreaming ESD across HE. I sincerely hope this practical guidance will embolden institutional champions to confidently make successful cases for ESD to their leadership groups, and support them in delivering it.

Author: Scott Strachan, Senior Teaching Fellow, University of Strathclyde
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