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Supporting the role of universities in leading individual and societal transformation through education for sustainable development

Price, Elizabeth AC, White, Rehema M, Mori, Kate, Longhurst, James, Baughan, Patrick, Hayles, Carolyn S, Gough, Georgina and Preist, Chris (2021) Supporting the role of universities in leading individual and societal transformation through education for sustainable development. Discover Sustainability, 2 (1).

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Abstract

There is growing recognition of the value of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) for all learners, and of the unique role that universities play in the transformation of individuals, institutions and societies towards more sustainable futures. Universities engage and even lead in several areas: education, research and community engagement, all of which are essential in this transformation. Further, given their focus and infuence, universities are pivotal to action needed to realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but, to date, UK university integration of ESD and engagement with the SDGs is relatively limited. In recognition that a more urgent and meaningful response is needed to deliver the 2030 targeted socio-economic transformation outlined by the SDGs, the UK ESD Guidance has been comprehensively revised to support universities to deliver education which enables students to acquire sustainability competencies, equipping them to play leadership roles in an increasingly uncertain world. In this case study, we critically analyse the role of universities and explore why ESD needs to be more urgently integrated in teaching and learning. We review the barriers to achieving ESD in UK universities at political and institutional levels. Finally, we explore the policy-practice interface and outline how the new UK ESD Guidance can support universities in leading individual and societal transformation through ESD and act as a stimulus for embedding ESD in university curricula in both UK and international contexts. We conclude that universities have as yet unfulflled potential to explore and facilitate ESD for sustainability leadership.

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