There are many academic best practice examples throughout schools, departments and teams such as the Transport Research Institute and Institute for Sustainable Construction. The Centre for Timber Engineering was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2015 for internationally acclaimed work in timber engineering, sustainable construction and wood science.
We have made the commitment within our University Strategy to “combine the expertise and motivation of our community to enhance environmental sustainability within and beyond the University through our curriculum, research, operations, partnerships and engagement” and the examples below demonstrate how we are approaching this through our academic workstream.
Our new Learning & Teaching Strategy (2020-2025), which reports to the Learning, Teaching & Assessment and Student Experience Committee, includes as significant focus on education for sustainable development not only through our taught undergraduate and postgraduate provision, but also through our academic themes and connections with research, and professional practice.
Indeed, sustainability is one of five key themes in our new ENhance Curriculum Framework, and establishing and embedding the ENhance framework is a key transformational action within the University’s strategy, Driving Distinctiveness, and is central to the University’s Learning & Teaching Strategy..
Achieving sustainability module
One example of education for sustainable development that reflects our interdisciplinary approach is a new module called ‘Achieving Sustainability’ which was launched in trimester two of our 2021/22 academic year. The module was developed by academics across five of our six schools and was offered as an option to students across the University. Key learning outcomes of the module are to “identify and plan creative practical actions to promote sustainability and show how these relate to one or more of the key ideas of sustainability that are discussed in the module” and “collaborate to deliver a practical outcome designed to promote sustainability and evaluate its potential for impact”.
Within 2021/22 the module attracted 29 students from across four of our schools. Projects focused on rewilding the seabed using seagrass; improving car parking spaces for the environment; adopting Ecosia as the University search engine; developing an app to help people adopt environmental lifestyle changes and engaging with school children on political change towards a net zero world.
Another specific example of embedding sustainability in our learning and teaching practice is the Business School’s student-led, week-long Sustainability Conference in March 2021 entitled ‘Reimagining and Rebuilding a Post Covid-19 Sustainable Future Together,’ which involved a significant number of participants and an amazing array of external speakers.
A conference was also held in March 2022. In addition, the Business School have developed a new ‘Build for Purpose’ free online course. For more information visit the Business School website.
Research & Innovation
Our focus on sustainable development is also clear throughout our new Research & Innovation Strategy (2020-2025), which reports to our Research & Innovation Committee. The primary aim of this strategy, led by our Vice-Principal Research & Innovation, Professor Nick Antonopoulos, is to ‘‘foster a sustainable and interdisciplinary research environment that inspires and brings together our academic staff, researchers, students and external stakeholders, to solve real world problems as well as influence professional practice and policy nationally and internationally, driving key societal, economic and environmental impacts.’’
Indeed one of the key pillars of this strategy, and a Transformational Action within the university’s overall strategy, is to align academic excellence around wellbeing and sustainability. This action also has a clear connection to the learning and teaching approach, with the goal of “developing a strategic research focus on key challenge-led academic themes that will foster an inter-disciplinary approach to delivering internationally excellent research and impact in tandem with a research-informed, enhanced curriculum.”
Embedding wellbeing and sustainability in our University Strategy is founded on our significant and long-term focus in these areas and they provide a clear indication of our goals as an academic and civic institution, spanning across the academic disciplines that we offer. They also represent values that are fully aligned to our ethos as a university. We have identified four angles through which we contribute to wellbeing and sustainability and these are the themes of Health, Environment, AI & Technologies and Culture & Communities. Led by ‘theme coordinators’ we will create effective communities of practice involving both staff and students in each of themes to identify and deliver opportunities for curriculum enhancement and inter-disciplinary activities and research, including the facilitation of public engagement.
Led by newly appointed ‘theme coordinators’ we will create effective communities of practice involving both staff and students in each of the themes to identify and deliver opportunities for curriculum enhancement and inter-disciplinary activities and research, including the facilitation of public engagement.
The review and approval of research centres aligned to the themes of welling and sustainability has also been completed, with twelve research centres now approved.
Success for student sustainability projects
Many students across the University have enjoyed success with their sustainability-related projects. Product design students have been featured in the RSA's Student Design Awards in recent years, with Lauren Cooper's sustainable maternity fashion project 'Bundle of Joy' being highly commended in 2020, and Mark Churcher winning in the 2021 Moving Pictures category with his 'A Sinking Feeling' animation he created to accompany an urgent call-to-action from Christiana Figueres, architect of the historic Paris Climate Agreement.