Educating for sustainability in language degrees: a tale of 2 case-studies

Hubscher-Davidson, Severine and Panichelli-Batalla, Stephanie (2016). Educating for sustainability in language degrees: a tale of 2 case-studies. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 17(3) pp. 404–416.



According to the 2014 joint report drafted by the Quality Assurance Agency and Higher Education Academy (QAA/HEA), universities have a key role to play in the development of sustainability literate graduates who can contribute to an environmentally responsible society. This paper aims to assess language students’ understanding of sustainable development (SD) issues.

Study 1 surveys two cohorts of final-year language students about to enter the graduate job market, and Study 2 surveys first-year language students before and after the inclusion of SD content in one of their modules. The questions to the students are provided along with qualitative and quantitative results.

Results suggest that only 48 per cent of language graduates are currently aware that they will need to take account of the environmental impact of their work as professional practitioners and 52 per cent do not consider it appropriate to learn about SD during their degree. However, results also suggest that incorporating SD early on in the language curriculum could contribute positively to the development of sustainability literate graduates.

While many language departments are aware of the importance of integrating sustainability into their curricula, and while employers are increasingly demanding sustainability literate graduates, there is little evidence that language students leave university with a real understanding of sustainability issues. This paper presents evidence of the current situation, as well as a novel way to integrate sustainability into the language curriculum to remedy the situation.

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