Education for Sustainability (EfS) | Pioneering LSBU course celebrates 21st anniversary



[NOTE: Text, photographs and graphics by Asitha Jayawardena ( as part of his Sustainable University One-stop Shop Experiment ( recognised in UNEP Greening Universities Toolkit (, page 61). Other sources of photographs are mentioned under the relevant graphic.]


Is the education that we are providing adequate to face the challenges that we are facing today? asked Professor Stephen Sterling (Professor of Sustainability Education at the Centre for Sustainable Futures, Plymouth University) in his keynote speech at the 21st anniversary celebratory conference of the EfS programme at London South Bank University (LSBU) held at LSBU on 13 January 2017.


Titled ‘Celebrating 21 Years of EfS: Moving forward in an age of global uncertainty’, the event brought together academics, students, alumni and practitioners, who collectively reflected on the impact of EfS and looked forward to future developments in this important field of education.


The programme featured a keynote, talks, panel discussions, workshops, stories from current students and alumni of the course, a poster exhibition and a celebratory reception.


Welcome and introduction


















Welcoming the participants, Professor Patrick Bailey (Deputy Vice Chancellor LSBU) highlighted that sustainability is so complex that no single area of expertise can solve the wicked problems associated with it, emphasising the need for an interdisciplinary approach.


He said that it is social justice that needs to be at the heart of sustainability, so that everything else would follow, even environmental protection.


He revealed that he doesn’t believe in climate change because it is not a religion and that, like himself, we all should become climate change critics. He said that there is 98% certainty that climate change is happening and 95% certainty that it is human-driven and warned that the consequences of not taking this clear evidence into account would be very serious.


He congratulated the outgoing course director, Professor Ros Wade, who had been at the helm of the course for the last 21 years from the very beginning.




Dr Jaya Gajparia, the new director of the EfS programme, gave an overview of the course.


She said that the EfS course, which offers postgraduate courses from Continued Professional Development (CPD) to Masters level with a range of flexible study modes, including distance learning, spans the theory and practice of EfS, enabling students to explore and expand the role that EfS can play in educational, social, political and economic change.


She also said that the course, which is designed for anyone interested in paving the way for a more sustainable world by way of understanding, educating or promoting sustainability, comprises six modules, with case studies and readings from a range of global regions; they are designed to be applicable to any type of educational or country context.


Moreover, she talked about the roots of the course, which lie the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio, Brazil, where a commitment was made to integrate environmental and development concerns in the emerging concept of sustainability while emphasising the importance of education’s role in building a sustainable world. In response to this, she said, a group of development and environmental organisations – with the financial contributions from WWF-UK, Oxfam and the EU – got together with LSBU and the eventual result was this EfS programme.


Finally, she observed that, over the last 21 years, the world’s first ever Masters programme of this kind has continued to grow steadily as a dynamic interface between theory and practice in EfS, with students and alumni from all continents – except Antarctica!


Panel discussion



The panels discussion was on ‘Reflections on the past, planning for the future.’


The panel, chaired by Professor Stephen Sterling (Plymouth University), comprised Professor Ros Wade (LSBU), Dr Paul Vare (University of Gloucestershire), Betty Okot (Alumni from Uganda/ Keele University), Safia Minney (People Tree) and Professor Craig Barker (LSBU). The panellists answered the chair’s questions and then, in the end, questions from the audience.


Professor Ros Wade, outgoing course director, observed that this EfS course has been a collaboration from the very beginning – between environmental and development educators, between academia and NGOs and so on.


She said that EfS not being a fixed discipline or field, the course has been developed in line with solving real world problems, based mainly on practice, enabling students to explore and expand the role of EfS in their own personal and professional journeys.


To her, transformatory aspect is key to the course although which brings in tensions, such as allowing for transformation, emergence, openness and originality vs. learning outcomes.


She revealed that it was people who made the course a resounding success, especially the students.


She also mentioned Journeys around Education for Sustainability, the book that the course published in 2008 from the work of the course participants and directors.


Betty Okot (Keele University), an alumna from Uganda, talked about how the EfS course made her a confident agent of change, elaborating on her work in making positive change in community policing in Uganda.


Dr Paul Vare (University of Gloucestershire) emphasised that the economic goal is too narrow for education and that critical thinking should play a key role of education.


Safia Minney (founder of People Tree) suggested that more pressure should be exerted on governments and corporations to battle modern slavery and that the movie ‘True Cost’ should be shown to teachers.


Professor Craig Barker (Dean, School of Law and Social Sciences, LSBU) said that many countries takes responsibility seriously but international law is constrained by political will.


Course impact | Stories from students and alumni















The session on the impact of the course was chaired by Dr Glenn Strachan (LSBU), who himself was a student on the course and then a co-director.


Students and alumni from Lesotho, Rwanda, UK and Cameroon (on Skype) shared their stories. The course has helped them in different ways, including:

  • Enhancing thinking and practice
  • To become what one wanted to be (now this student wants help others to become what they want to be)
  • To look deeply into the alternatives to the mainstream
  • To effect personal change for good in their own life and space
  • To become confident and effective agents of change


Sustainability at LSBU















James Whittingham (Sustainability Manager at LSBU) outlined the university’s 3C-framework that drives sustainability change by addressing both hearts and minds of the LSBU community; the framework comprises campus, curriculum and community.


Students’ posters were on display during the lunch break.


















(Poppy Flint’s photograph is from her LinkedIn profile)


A parallel session comprised two workshops and an exhibition:

  • Poppy Flint (This is Rubbish) on the anti-food waste edible educational programme
  • Alia Al Zougbi (HEC Global Learning Centre) on a global learning approach to teaching about refugees
  • Whole Earth Exhibition at LSBU (led by Rebecca Drahota, Annie Nilisson and Malin Lundberg)


‘Whole Earth?’ exhibition, launched in autumn 2015 at the Eden Project, is hosted by universities and schools in the UK and Scandinavia. It is a partnership between Hard Rain Project, the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Environmental the Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC).


UK Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s contribution to sustainable development
















(Main photograph from the Flickr photo album of Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK


Two representatives from the UK Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, which funds the African Scholarship programme of the course, outlined its contribution to sustainable development and empowerment through its scholarship scheme.


The RCE movement and Education for Sustainability (EfS)



Professor Ros Wade (Chair, London Regional Centre of Expertise RCE in Education for Sustainable Development ESD) revealed how the existence of the course at LSBU was instrumental in the development of LSBU as the host of the RCE London, which is part of the UN University’s global RCE network. She drew attention to the European RCE meeting 2016 that RCE London and LSBU hosted in June last year.


Keynote | Future challenges for EfS



What’s wrong with education today? Is the education that we are providing adequate to face the challenges that we are facing today? asked Professor Stephen Sterling, delivering the keynote on the future challenges for EfS.


Today, conventional knowledge is not adequate, he observed, emphasising that extraordinary times require extraordinary responses. He viewed the birth of this course as an example of such an extraordinary response from environmental and development education communities.


Good education should enable us to question assumptions, including our own, as this course encourages its students to do so, he said.


Future challenges for EfS are numerous, he said, taking tension as an example, between fragmentation and integration. Other challenges that he had mentioned include staying within fixed boundaries, issues related to labels and identities and obtaining better co-evaluation with society.


Although much more needs to be done, what EfS/ ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) has achieved in the last couple of decades is phenomenal, he observed. For instance, he said, in the 1990s EfS/ ESD was almost non-existent but today it enjoys global influence at the UN level.


Presentation of certificates
















After the keynote, Professor Sterling awarded certificates to the students who had participated in a recent residential of the course.


The day ended with a celebratory reception.


Note: All logos and screenshots are from respective websites.





London South Bank University (LSBU)


RCE London | @RCELondon


WWF-UK @wwf_uk


Oxfam UK @oxfamgb


Plymouth University | Centre for Sustainable Futures (CSF) @PlymouthCSF


University of Gloucestershire | Sustainability @UniGlosSustain


Keele University | Green Keele | @GreenKeele


People Tree | @PeopleTree


HEC (Humanities Education Centre) Global Learning Centre @HECglobal


This is Rubbish @foodwaste


Hard Rain / Whole Earth? exhibition


Eden Project @edenproject


Environmental the Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC) @TheEAUC


National Union of Students (NUS) | Sustainability


The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK @CommSchols



New websites of the Sustainable University Experiment

Sustainability Education and Engagement through STORYTELLING









Sustainability Storytelling website |


Sustainability through Science & Research COMMUNICATION (Knowledge journalism)

Sustainability Communication website |


From The Sustainable University News website


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


Newcastle Conf | Public engagement as a promoter of policymakers’ uptake of sustainability research findings?


Limits to growth, audacity of hope and moral imagination reign at CUSP Reinventing Prosperity event in London


Universities have an obligation to empower graduates to deal with climate change, says Porritt at LSBU


LSBU and RCE London host European RCE Meeting 2016


Delivering ESD and graduate attributes through Hybrid Problem-Based Learning


Complexity, Interdisciplinarity and Sustainable Prosperity shine at Food-Energy-Water-Environment Nexus Conference 2015


From The Sustainable University Library


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


Education for Sustainability MSc at LSBU | A pioneer that brings together environment, development and education


The Sustainable University: Progress and prospects | Handbook to ‘the University of the Future’


Sustainability Engagement | Seven INNOVATION secrets discovered through my Sustainable University experiment


A university aspiring to do better in SUSTAINABILITY? The SUS (Sustainable University Support) Model as a helping hand?


New QAA/HEA ESD Guidance | Complementing UK Quality Code for Higher Education


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


A green tale of four UK universities | HEA Green Academy workshops – Worcester, Canterbury Christ Church, Bristol and Nottingham





The Sustainable University (SU) One-stop Shop |

SU News

The Sustainable University Support (SUS) Model

LinkedIn Group | SUSTAINABILITY | Education, Research & Engagement

Twitter | | #SustySTORY #SustyCOMM #SUSmodel #SUnews #AlienLETTER #GreenSTARS

Asitha on LinkedIn |

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