COPERNICUS conf: Leadership in a Changing World: Higher education, sustainability and the new Global Action Programme on ESD

SML-CA-ConfCOPERNICUS Alliance (CA) Conference on Leadership in a Changing World: Higher education, sustainability and the new Global Action Programme on ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) will be held at the University of Gloucestershire UK on 10-11 January 2014.

This international conference will take place during a major transition period for ESD globally, namely the end of the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014) and the beginning of the new Global Action Programme on ESD. Bringing together CA members and signatories of the Rio+20 Treaty on Higher Education, it welcomes participants interested in the future of higher education for sustainability.

With a focus on global platforms, institutional development and student leadership for sustainable development in higher education, the conference will ask questions such as:

  • What have been the major changes and shifts in higher education towards sustainability over the last ten years?
  • What does the future hold for universities and colleges engaged with this agenda?
  • What role will the new Global Action Programme on ESD play in advancing change for sustainability in higher education?
  • How do we extend the circle of the committed and build partnerships for change?
  • How do you understand transformation for sustainable development in higher education?

The two-day event is structured around the following themes:

  • Day 1: University Leadership for Sustainability
  • Day 2: (a) Student Leadership for Sustainability (b) COPERNICUS Alliance

Day 1 will begin with a welcome by Professor Steven Marston, Vice-Chancellor, University of Gloucestershire. In her welcome address, Professor Daniella Tilbury (Chair of the UNESCO Monitoring and Evaluation Group for the DESD and President of COPERNICUS Alliance) will share the headlines from the UNESCO Higher Education Report that will inform the DESD Final Report and dialogues at the World Conference on ESD to be held in Nagoya in November 2014.

The day will feature six keynotes, three in the morning and three in the afternoon:

  • Dr Alexander Leicht (TBC) (UNESCO, Chief of ESD Section, France): The Global Action Programme on ESD and UNESCO ESD plans in post-DESD
  • Mahesh Pradhan (United Nations Environment Programme UNEP and Founder of its Global University Partnerships on Environment and Sustainability GUPES, Kenya): Ambitions and achievements of UNEP’s GUPES
  • Dr Geoff Scott (Emeritus Professor of Sustainability at the University of Western Sydney and Co-Chair of the Sustainable Futures Leadership Academy SFLA, Australia): Findings of the Turnaround Leadership for Higher Education study
  • Dr Lorna Down (Teacher Education Expert at the University of West Indies, Jamaica): Outcomes of a Teacher Education project on curriculum innovation in sustainability in Jamaica
  • Professor Javier Benayas (Co-ordinator of RISU [Network of sustainability indicators in higher education] at the Iberoamerican Network of Universities for Sustainability [ARIUSA] and Executive Secre­tary of CADEP-CRUE [Sustainability working group within the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities], Spain): Work of ARIUSA and progress on one of its flagship projects on sustainability indicators
  • Dr Ingrid Mulà (CA Co-ordinator, UK): Ambitions and plans of the UE4SD project

The first day will also include an interactive panel discussion, discussion groups and parallel sessions. Professor Clemens Mader (Visiting Professor for Environment and Sustainability in the Region at Leuphana University of Lüneburg and Vice-President of CA, Germany) will summarise the day’s dialogues and outcomes and will also share insights on the transformational role of higher education as outlined in the Rio+20 Treaty on Higher Education, an initiative coordinated by CA.

Day 2, which will start with a welcome by Dr. Ingrid Mulà (CA, UK), will see three keynotes in the morning:

  • Jamie Agombar (Ethical and Environmental Manager, National Union of Students NUS, UK): Results of a study that captures a national picture of university student expectations in ESD, new Students’ Green Fund and Intelligent Energy Europe project
  • Felix Spira (Co-founder of RootAbility, Germany): Maastricht University Green Office concept
  • Dr. Zoe Robinson (Director of Education for Sustainability at Keele University, UK): A report of the international conference on Student Action for Sustainability held at Keele in October 2013

The day will also see an interactive panel discussion and a session on sharing of student sustainability projects and will end with CA Annual General Meeting (for CA members only).

The reflections and proposals arising from the conference will be presented to the organisers of the World Conference on ESD to be held in November 2014 in Nagoya, Japan.

COPERNICUS Alliance (CA) is a European network of higher education institutions that aims to re-orient their programmes and research towards sustainable development while promoting best practice on sustainable management of university campuses. It also seeks to build partnerships with business, government agencies and civil society to progress sustainability at the local and global level.

CA’s origins run back to the 1993 COPERNICUS Charta, which has so far been endorsed by 326 European universities, showcasing their commitment in leading change for sustainable development. In 2011, an updated version of the COPERNICUS Charta, namely COPERNICUS Charta 2.0, was developed and this calls for a greater commitment of universities in re-orienting themselves towards sustainable development.

Image is adapted from the cover of the conference brochure



Copernicus Alliance website


UNESCO ESD section

UNESCO World Conference on ESD 2014 (Japan, 10-12 November 2014)

Rio+20 Treaty on Higher Education

Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability (GUPES) of UNEP

Global University Partnership on Environment and Sustainability (GUPES)

UNEP Greening Universities Toolkit

Turnaround Leadership for Sustainability in Higher Education


Students’ Green Fund website of NUS (National Union of Students) UK



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University of Planetshire approach to integrating sustainability across the curriculum (Part 3 of EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University)

Outputs of the University of Planetshire Approach to integrating sustainability across the curriculum (Part 4 of EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University)

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The suite of Sustainable University websites: Sustainable University One-stop Shop | News and Information | Research | Good Practice | Quotes | Blog | Diary | Micro-blog (@sustainableuni1 on Twitter)

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