New QAA/HEA ESD Guidance to complement UK Quality Code for Higher Education

SML-QAA-ESD-docThe QAA/HEA ESD Guidance, titled Education for sustainable development: Guidance for UK higher education providers, was published in June 2014. It is a product of collaboration between the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA).


Aim and who it is for


The guidance aims to assist staff in UK higher education institutions in incorporating education for sustainable development (ESD) within the curricula of their respective disciplines.


This reference point for use in curriculum design, delivery and review is mainly targeted at academics, educational developers and programme leaders. However, it may also be of interest to those with responsibility for quality assurance and enhancement, and the management of teaching and learning.


Although this guidance relates primarily to undergraduate provision and assessment at Level 6, it may also be helpful to educators working at other levels (e.g. Level 5, including foundation degrees, and postgraduate). Moreover, it should be read in conjunction with the appropriate QAA subject benchmark statement.




Chapter B3 of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education (the Quality Code) on Learning and Teaching identifies education for sustainability (or ESD) as an educational theme that cuts across academic disciplines. This guidance therefore complements the Quality Code but does not form an explicit part of it.


Structure and content


The ESD guidance recognises that there are many ways in which ESD could be incorporated within the curricula and therefore it is not prescriptive about delivery. It only presents an outcomes-based framework for use in curriculum design, and general guidance on approaches to teaching, learning and assessment. Moreover, it is not specific to any particular degree programme or subject specialism.


The document comprises two main parts:

  • The identification of graduate outcomes: What students will be able to know, understand and do after an appropriate period of learning
  • A focus on teaching, learning and assessment: The ways in which educators can work with students to help them achieve and demonstrate the outcomes


How it was prepared


The guidance was prepared by an expert group drawn from the UK higher education community with expertise in ESD. The group was chaired by Professor James Longhurst and co-convened by Dr Laura Bellingham and Simon Kemp.


An earlier version of the guidance was subject to public consultation between November 2013 and January 2014.


For more information, please contact Dr Laura Bellingham


Image adapted from the cover of the guidance.





QAA/HEA ESD Guidance document (PDF for free downloading)


Web page of the ESD Guidance document


Circular letter (Number CL 07/14)


ESD on QAA website


ESD on the Higher Education Academy (HEA) website



ESD posts on LinkedIn (#asiLI)


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)


Online consultation on QAA/HEA draft guidance on ESD for UK higher education open until 3 January 2014


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


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


CONFERENCE: Quality Assurance, Enhancement and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): Creating a Framework for Dialogue


Gloucestershire event | Turning tides in Education for Sustainability (EfS) across higher education


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


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


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


HEFCE London event: NHS Sustainable Development jab to higher education


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


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


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


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


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)





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