Every little helps, but believe in better as well

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The penchant for vacuous marketing slogans has spread to universities, it seems, if aspects of the HEA's new Green Academy programme are anything to go by.  Most institutions on the programme have chosen a title for their project which reflects its focus (the Ronseal approach, you might say).  For example, ...

Embedding sustainable development in a new Welsh university (USW)

Learning for the future: embedding sustainability in the curriculum (University of Chichester)

Lightening the load: creating change for sustainability through fashion education (University of the Arts)

Others have found slogans preferable, with UCL's Unlocking the potential winning this year's Tesco Award.  Mind you, as mindless slogans go, it's nowhere near as good as that from an AUT pay-campaign from the 1980s: Rectify the Anomaly which unsurprisingly failed to attract the public's attention, or government sympathy.  Nottingham Trent's Food for thought might have won had its title not been more cliché than slogan.

Of course, if you look at what UCL actually proposes to do in its Green Academy programme, there is substance to it:

University College London (UCL) has identified sustainability as a core value for the institution. In this regard, UCL recognises that, as a world-class, multidisciplinary university, it has an important role to play in contributing to sustainable development: addressing the environmental and social impact of our activities and operations; and deploying our academic excellence, entrepreneurship and research activities to tackle real-world challenges, and contributing to the solutions.

With the launch of UCL’s first Environmental Sustainability Strategy, the role of education and research in delivering sustainable development has been bought to the fore, as a core sustainability objective for the Institution. UCL already provides education for sustainable development through a number of its disciplines and departments but the focus is now on understanding the strength of this activity and how it can be developed. This will focus on the formal and informal education, which is provided through assessed education, conversation and experience.

In the 2012/13 academic year, UCL will launch the Global Citizenship programme which will seek to engage 4,000 undergraduates from all disciplines studying courses with sustainability-themed content each year.

This proposal is about unlocking the potential of UCL’s staff and students: understanding what and how UCL currently provides education; embedding the principles of ESD into our Global Citizenship Programme; and drawing knowledge from our experience and others to develop formal and informal education opportunities.

I should also say that I am pleased to see that HEA is allocating funds for an external evaluation of these new projects, as it did for the first tranche.  I am even more pleased to see that continuing developments within the first Green Academy cohort are being evaluated as well.  I do wonder how many of them will have taken further significant steps now that the formal HEA programme has ended.  Given that, on my reading of the first evaluation reports at least, there was a mismatch between institutional and evaluator view of progress made, this follow-up seems particularly important.  That said, the evaluators' work for the Green Academy isn't always straightforward, particularly where project aims are not set out with much clarity – as, for my money, with UCL (above).  In such cases, it can be hard for evaluators (or anyone else) to see what institutions proposed to judge themselves on.  More to come on all this, no doubt.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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