On behalf of the Learning & Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), NIACE (with others) have developed Sustaining Our Future which is a "draft framework for moving towards a sustainable learning and skills sector", and there's an online consultation on all this. I spend more time than I intended filling this in yesterday and was nearly driven to drink it was so dispiriting. As I am loath to spend even more time thinking about this, I'll only give one example of the problem. This, is the draft vision:
"A learning and skills sector which maximises and mainstreams environmental, economic and social sustainability"
I was underwhelmed and commented that McDonald's would probably do as well / badly as this. Actually, they do. McDonald's says:
"Our vision for a sustainable supply chain links responsibility for ethical, environmental and economic outcomes"
It is as though drafting team know which words to use, but cannot communicate what they mean by them. In Alan Hansen's oft-repeated words: grit and determination, there may be, but there's little sign of flair and imagination. When the essence is to communicate to people who do not habitually think about such matters, this is crucial.
I wish I could recommend it to you, but when you're only as good as McDonalds, ...
This, rather un-Gove, phrase stood out me as I read his speech at the Education World Forum last week in London. Mr Gove did not attribute it, but as it seems firmly associated with one of George Bush Jnr's speechwriters (Michael Gerson), that is understandable. An informative speech, all in all, about the government's position and policy, the English Baccalaureat, and its determination to address and undo the bigotry (as I see it of parents / teachers / governors / unions – and probably caretakers and cleaners as well). But it was all very dull. A pity, then, about all the cuts, as, otherwise, Gerson might be on the team full time.
Just when you thought it was safe not to think about league tables of universities for a while, up pops another green ranking – this time an international one. Whilst the UK has 6 out of the top 25 places, these institutions are not the obvious ones, or those that feature strongly in the UK's People & Planet tables – other than Bangor which is 17th (=) in the UK, and 11th in the world. Meanwhile, Nottingham comes 2nd in the world but is only 53rd (=) in the UK, which is rather like Charlton Athletic's being ranked second to Barcelona in a FIFA league table, which is something that's only remotely possible if the quality of the gravy in the meat pies is highly weighted. Something methodologically dubious in all this, of course, but if I'd any responsibility at Plymouth, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Central Lancashire, Aston, Nottingham Trent, Bradford, ... I'd be looking to my laurels (or lawyers).
I wrote the other day [ 22 December ] about the Higher Education Academy's revision of its professional standards framework, and its attempts to add a reference to sustainability within these as a new professional value. I noted the difficulties it ran into in relation to the use of jargon-ridden language that will not be clear to anyone not already steeped in thinking about HE and sustainability. The Academy has drafted the new value as:
“a commitment to the sustainability of higher education and the concept of global citizenship”
... which illustrates something of the problem: why should anyone commit to a concept – and a vague one at that; and to the endurance of HE (did they really mean that)?
All this is now out for consultation, and the ever-dependable EAUC has a draft response on which it has asked for feedback. EAUC is also critical of the language, but is more polite than I have been. The ways in which the new value is to be demonstrated by academics includes:
"Knowledge of sustainable curriculum approaches, and an understanding of its implications for personal, professional practice"
EAUC notes that "sustainable curriculum approaches" suffers from the same problem as "the sustainability of HE", and has suggested:
"Knowledge of sustainability curriculum approaches and an understanding of ..."
... instead. This is obviously better, but I think that a clearer way to help people think about this (if they've not thought about it before) might be: