ESD London Conference | Sustainability is a core theme in higher education today and will remain so tomorrow, says VC LSBU


Sustainability is a core theme in higher education today and will remain so in the future, said Professor David Phoenix, Vice Chancellor at London South Bank University (LSBU) at the first annual conference of the London Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), held at LSBU on 10 June 2014.


Titled ‘ESD London: Supporting employability, society and the environment: A curriculum for sustainability,’ the event brought together educationalists, NGOs and employers with the aim of developing a London-wide community of practice in order to inspire and engage the participants in promoting a sustainable future for all. It comprised a keynote, speeches, panel Q&A, paper and poster presentations, workshops, networking opportunities and an awards presentation.


The day began with a welcome to LSBU (the host institution of the London RCE) by Professor Phoenix. Emphasizing that universities should deliver back to society, he revealed that one of the key priorities of his own institution is civic engagement and, in this endeavour, sustainability would play a key role.


Professor Ros Wade (Chair, London RCE), who led the team which achieved accreditation in 2009 from UN University for LSBU to develop the London RCE, presented an introduction to the day. In the past couple of years, London RCE has grown into a network of networks, comprising representatives from education, state, business and civil society from London and beyond. LSBU’s key strength that contributed to this achievement was its Education for Sustainability (EfS) Masters programme. Launched twenty years ago, soon after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, this programme brought together academics and practitioners from Development Education and Environmental Education, with the involvement of Oxfam and WWF.


The morning session of the conference comprised a keynote and two speeches:

  • Keynote address | Jane Davidson, Director INSPIRE (Institute for Sustainability Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness), University of Wales Trinity Saint David
  • Learning to learn for sustainability in higher education: making a difference | Professor Stephen Sterling, Head of ESD and Centre for Sustainable Futures, Plymouth University
  • Accelerating change for sustainability in higher education: A UNESCO DESD study | Professor Daniella Tilbury, Dean and Director of Sustainability, University of Gloucestershire, and Chair UNESCO Expert Group on UN Decade in ESD


Keynote address: Jane Davidson, former Minister for Environment and Sustainability and Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning in Wales, emphasized the need to ‘think global and act local’ in responding to sustainability challenges. Referring to the concept of the ecological footprint, she said that, in the economically developed world, we live as if we had a number of planets to support our lifestyles, but we have got only one. Turning to politics, she observed that elections lead to short term thinking and populism, adversely affecting the sustainability agenda. Moreover, voluntary action is sometimes not enough and an example is the necessity for plastic bag charge legislation. She also stressed that universities themselves need to think differently in the context of the challenge of sustainability.


Learning to learn for sustainability in higher education: making a difference: Professor Stephen Sterling outlined some of the challenges that universities face with respect to the sustainability in their curricula and also pathways that have emerged. He observed that the concept of sustainability raises the question of the purpose of higher education. To contribute to sustainability positively, a holistic and transformative education is required. Although a whole institutional approach to change is difficult, it would be effective in the long term. He presented the 4C model, comprising three interlocking circles of Curriculum, Campus and Community, subsumed in a wider circle of Culture, stating that it could be adopted to bring about holistic change. He also reminded that ESD can colour all areas of curricula.


Accelerating change for sustainability in higher education: A UNESCO DESD study: Professor Daniella Tilbury said that higher education has a critical role to play in developing a global vision and pathway for sustainable development. Presenting a summary of a global study carried out by the UNESCO, she revealed that, in the past decade, the progress achieved by universities worldwide in lowering carbon footprint of education is higher than that achieved in integrating sustainability into their core business, i.e. education. Moreover, she said that sustainability should form the core of what universities should be doing, not a side product. She noted that there has been much progress in networking and UN University’s global RCE network has helped universities to connect students’ learning to situated communities of practice. She also mentioned the University Educators for Sustainable Development (UE4SD) project, which brings together 55 partners (mainly universities) from 33 countries across Europe and beyond to rethink the higher education curriculum with regard to sustainable development.


Over twenty papers with ESD-related themes were presented at two workshop sessions with parallel workshops in the morning and in the afternoon. (For a full list, please visit the links below under ‘More….’). Morning workshops were chaired by Dr Hugh Atkinson (LSBU), Margaret Burr (Humanities Education Centre HEC), Shaminder Takhar (LSBU) and Anna Portch (London Environmental Education Forum LEEF). Afternoon workshops were chaired by Dr Hugh Atkinson (LSBU), John Baines (LSBU) and Falko Schmidt.


The afternoon session comprised three presentations:

  • Making a Green Impact through ESD | Jo Kemp, Green Impact Programme Manager, National Union of Students (NUS)
  • How to implement ESD within Higher Education via NUS Green Impact – a best practice example | Aisling Tierney (ESD Coordinator) and Chris Willmore (ESD Academic Lead) from the University of Bristol
  • ESD in Further Education | Esin Esat, Director of Sustainability, Bedford College


Jo Kemp said that students are saying sustainability is important. She revealed that the NUS is engaging students in sustainability in diverse ways, such as fun and collaboration (e.g. Students Switch Off, Students Eats), enabling action (e.g. Snap It Off) and working with and across institutions and communities (e.g. Students Green Fund, Green Impact).


Aisling Tierney and Chris Willmore presented the Bristol University’s ESD model, which comprises four circles comprising formal, informal and subliminal curriculum (estates) and research, subsumed by a wider circle of community. They revealed that ESD at Bristol hasn’t got committees but only a network, enabling experimentation, quick action and bottom-up approach. Willmore said sustainability should be fun, about celebration and about giving ownership (Don’t tell students, etc, what to do; ask what their next step is).


Esin Esat presented an overview on ESD in further education and said that the most important for the future of ESD in further education is student and staff engagement.


Among the other presentations were:

  • Providing an efficient, flexible, healthy and environmentally friendly solution to travel for the future | Harry Scrope (Brompton Dock)
  • The UN Global Compact and Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) | David Clemson (LSBU, Copernicus Alliance and PRME) and John Peters (Greenleaf Publishing)
  • Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) and Green Gown Awards | Fiona Goodwin (EAUC)
  • Journal contributions | Andrew Jones (Editor of the journal Local Economy)


Lynn Vickery (LSBU and Co-ordinator, London RCE) presented the awards for the best paper and poster submissions.


The London RCE organised the conference in partnership with 4 All of Us and the event was supported by the EAUC, the London Universities Environmental Group (LUEG), NUS, Change Agents UK, Greenleaf Publishing, PRME, Brompton Dock and Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network.


The London RCE on ESD is part of the UN University’s global RCE network on ESD, comprising over 100 RCEs worldwide.


Photographs by Asitha Jayawardena





ESD LondonConference 2014: Website | Twitter


Conference content (i.e. presentation slides)


Morning Workshops | A list of papers


Afternoon Workshops | A list of papers


London RCE | Main website | News website\ Twitter


UN University website | ESD page | Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs)


The RCE Network


4 All of Us


The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC)


Green Impact, National Union of Students (NUS)


The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network


Local Economy journal



Related ESD posts on LinkedIn | #asiLI (on Twitter)


Why universities should lead their wider communities’ sustainability endeavours | Three reasons


LSBU MSc in Education for Sustainability | How it enriched my perspective


A game of plates at ‘Growth vs. Earth’ Café | Who depends on whom?


Sustainability | A balancing act? Four of them?


Making sense of sustainability (or sustainable development) | A look at seven definitions


Sustainability-oriented poetry | Ten unforgettable pieces from Byron to Tennyson


Sustainability-oriented quotes and sayings | Twenty gems from Native Americans to Einstein



Related posts on The Sustainable University News & Info website (this website)


ESD London Conference | Supporting Employability, Society & the Environment: A Curriculum for Sustainability


Sustainable Lifestyles conference | Good life of the good person is only possible in a good society, says Prof Jackson


Informal communication has a key role in sustainability-oriented institutional change, says Green Academy Lead at Worcester


Sustainability leadership is all around us, says Director SD at Canterbury Christ Church University


Disciplines speak ‘Sustainability’ in different languages, says ESD academic lead at Bristol


Online learning is a driver for sustainability, says Dr Speight at HEA-Nottingham seminar


HEFCE London event: NHS Sustainable Development jab to higher education


UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)


Five questions and 100 delegates from 15 countries: COPERNICUS conference on higher education, sustainability and ESD


UNEP publishes Greening Universities Toolkit


QAA/HEA ESD Guidance Document for UK higher education goes under consultation


Inaugural AGM of London RCE on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)


HEA-NUS Report 2013: Student attitudes towards and skills for sustainable development


NUS announces 25 Students’ Green Fund projects in England


House of Commons launch: UK’s Rio+20 Manifesto to strengthen education’s role in sustainable development


London South Bank University (LSBU) in Africa: Education for Sustainability (EfS) Residential 2013


ESD has made inroads in new pedagogical ideas in future flexible higher education – HEA report


Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) London Conference 2014: Call for Papers


New website: The Guide to Quality and Education for Sustainability in Higher Education


Gloucestershire workshop on Education for Sustainability in Higher Education


Delivering ESD and graduate attributes through Hybrid Problem-Based Learning


New TOOLKIT: Problem-Based Learning: A Case Study of Sustainability Education



Related posts on The Sustainable University Notes blog


Education’s role in addressing sustainability and ESD


Higher Education’s role in building a sustainable world


Pathways to a sustainable university


EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University (Part 1): curriculum content and delivery


Opportunities for integrating sustainability across curricula (Part 2 of EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University)


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)


Will it work? – The University of Planetshire Approach to integrating sustainability across the curriculum (Part 5 of EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University)



Related posts on The Sustainable University Diary blog (ESD reflections)


The starting point of our sustainability crisis?


Who depends on whom? A game of plates




The Sustainable University One-stop Shop

Its satellite websites:  News & Info | Research | Good Practice | Quotes | Blog | Reflective Diary | Twitter


Project PROPOSAL for universities | Sustainability as an enhancer of reputation and financial position | The Planetshire University (PU) model


LinkedIn GROUP | Sustainability, Education and Engagement | ESD at Planetshire University


LinkedIn POSTS | Posts on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) & Sustainability in Higher Education


Profile & Portfolio | Asitha Jayawardena | Strengths, Accomplishments & Recognition


Online Shelf | Examples of past work (PDFs, booklets, press articles, logos, etc)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.