Sustainable Curriculum – shaping our impact

“I want you to imagine something bold and I want you to try to do something challenging.”

Colleagues attending a recent event to help shape the Sustainable Curriculum programme at Leeds

This was the gauntlet laid down by Professor Jeff Grabill, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education, when he addressed colleagues attending a recent event to help shape the Sustainable Curriculum programme at Leeds.

A core commitment within the University’s Climate Plan, the programme’s vision is to equip our students with the knowledge, capabilities and skills they need to succeed and make a positive impact in the world. 

Sustainability has long been embedded in the Leeds Curriculum, and this programme will help further grow and nurture a community of students from diverse backgrounds who will go on to contribute solutions to global challenges in an equitable and just way.

Professor Grabill, as the programme sponsor, encouraged participants to draw on institutional talent and collaboration to drive forward the Sustainable Curriculum agenda.

He said: “If we’re going to build a distinctive educational experience for our students – one that engages the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in a meaningful way, one that has impact and one that enables our students to become world-changers – we need to develop transformative practices that really change students’ lives.”

Embedding sustainability

The event was hosted by Professor William Young, Academic Lead for the Sustainable Curriculum programme and Delivery Working Group Chair. He outlined our approach and opportunities to connect with the programme. 

Professor Kenny McDowall highlighted the programme’s integration with Curriculum Redefined, stressing how sustainability is central to learning at Leeds. New Curriculum Redefined Transformative Educator roles are contributing to the programme, with related teaching guides and other resources already available and workshops being organised. Newly appointed Curriculum Redefined Transformative Educator, Dr Georgiana Allison, will lead a team to ensure professional development support complements the Curriculum Redefined resources.  

Sustainable Curriculum – shaping our impact. November 2022

Breakout groups discuss ideas for the programme’s vision

Leeds University Business School (LUBS) is also using Curriculum Redefined resources as part of its drive to embed sustainability across all its programmes. Dr Andrew Mearman, an Associate Professor in LUBS, described how its teaching practices are being aligned with its wider Blueprint sustainability action plan goals.

‘Learn by doing’

And there’s strong evidence to also suggest this is what students want to see from their university courses. 

The latest Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK) survey revealed 84% of respondents want sustainable development embedded in every course. This is also demonstrated in the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) framework.

A Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) Fellowship project aims to generate an institutional understanding of sustainability, climate change and equality through ESD, to identify and share good practice. Anne Tallontire, Professor of Sustainability and Business in the Faculty of Environment, will shortly be recruiting participants for this.

Experiential learning is another fundamental aspect of this process, whereby students ‘learn by doing’ and by reflecting on their experiences. The expansion of the Leeds Living Lab model for research-based learning will enable more students to deliver projects that create change and inform policy and decision making around sustainability. Presentations from student contributors during the event echoed the appetite for more of these opportunities. 

Professor Young said: “Together, we are keen to take on Professor Grabill’s challenge to be bold and imaginative and to create a more sustainable future for the University and our students.”

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