The Challenge of Sustainability - the Welsh Agenda

Glover, Alison (2009). The Challenge of Sustainability - the Welsh Agenda. In: Postgraduate and Newer Researchers Society for Research into Higher Education Conference, 7 Dec 2009, Celtic Manor, Newport, South Wales.


Global issues such as climate change, poverty, health, education and environmental degradation are very topical, with substantial media coverage. Currently it is the United Nations Decade for Sustainability (2005-2014), part of this programme is to integrate sustainability within all sectors of education. Incorporated within this process is the establishment of Regional Centres of Expertise. The British Government and the Welsh Assembly Government have published several policies prioritising sustainability across all sectors. For example, in May 2009 the Welsh Assembly launched ‘One Wales, One World’, promoting sustainable development as the main organising principle for all sectors. Higher education institutions provide future citizens, who will lead, design and create change within society, and it is therefore desirable for students to be empowered if they are to be effective. Consequently, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) is prioritising Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) within the sector.

This research focuses on the situation in Wales. In 2008 the Welsh Assembly Government funded an audit to establish the situation of ESDGC within Welsh higher education. The Welsh Assembly and HEFCW agreed to utilise STAUNCH© (Sustainability Tool for Auditing University Curricula in Higher-Education). STAUNCH© is an innovative auditing tool created by the ESRC-funded Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS) at Cardiff University. As a result, all higher education institutions in Wales applied the same auditing process. This provided a country wide picture of the current situation of ESDGC within the curriculum. Critical reflections of the audit have emerged, and Welsh higher education institutions are responding to these.

The findings of this audit will be discussed and current actions that have emerged as a result, both at an institutional level and across Wales. The question arises as to whether higher education institutions are developing the policies and strategies to tackle sustainability issues in the way the Welsh Assembly requires. The perception of staff and students of the changing role they have to play in the development and implementation of the resulting policies needs to be investigated. This research aims to develop a conceptual and analytical framework as a guide for case studies in order to examine the implementation process and impacts of strategies and policies at higher education institutions in Wales. The outcomes of this research will aim to make recommendations within the broad field of policy development and implementation and also focus upon the sustainability agenda.

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