When you think about sustainability, do you really need to think about quality?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I began drafting this post at the end of March, on a train slowly making its way through that most soothing of landscapes, the Wiltshire Downs.  I was returning home from three days on the road: grandchildren (an education in themselves), and a couple of day-long meetings.  I made just one intervention at each of these, which was restrained of me (fewer than 100 words in 5 hours, all told).

At one, an Ellen MacArthur Foundation team meeting, I merely asked whether "flipped learning" required 'flipped teaching' (whatever that is), and if so, where was the CPD.  I'm still pondering the answer.  At the other meeting, the HEA ESD Advisory Group, in a session about the QAA, quality and ESD, I said I was disappointed that QAA hadn't said to universities:

"When you think about quality, you need to think about sustainability"

... on the grounds that, in order to make quality systems fit for purpose in the world we are entering, they need to be thought though in terms of sustainability.  This is a point I have made to QAA itself, initially as part of a national consultation on its quality code, and (endlessly, it seems) in recent blogs.

Of course, this is not what QAA has actually said to the world.  Their's is the inverse (or perverse) point that:

"When you think about sustainability, you need to think about quality"

But this is both quotidian and pedestrian as, in UK universities now, if you think about anything at all you need to think about quality, such is the grip that the quality mindset has on institutional thinking and practice.

I regret not making a more robust challenge to these orthodoxies on the day, but I was reeling from having sat through a 25 minute trading of views on which jargon was best when trying to persuade university lecturers to toe the sustainability line; that is, ESD or EfS.  No doubt, just as the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the fire, I shall return to all this, especially as QAA and HEA have set up a group (funded by QAA of course) to develop new guidance for universities on ESD (or is that EfS?).  Just what the country needs ...

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response