Teaching a green standard

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates

This is Steve Martin's letter in today's THE ...

A glaring omission from the People & Planet University League 2015 tables is any meaningful measure of teaching quality and how the programmes that universities offer contribute to the life chances of their graduates. If, as is commonly supposed, green league tables (or indeed any other form of differentiated assessment of a university’s performance) are used by prospective students to determine which university will be best for them, then an important factor is whether the teaching on offer is fit for purpose in meeting the future needs of a graduate. And there is good empirical evidence from recent student surveys (commissioned by the Higher Education Academy) that of the 15,000 students canvassed, 80 per cent wanted more emphasis on sustainability in their courses.

No one can predict with any certainty how the world will change in the future, but it is likely to be in many significant ways. An expanding population, increasing globalisation and advances in technology will bring colossal societal and ecological changes, particularly if our unsustainable practices and lifestyles prevail. Without significant policy interventions, more people will be consuming more resources; climate change will cause global temperatures to increase; demand for food will double globally; and more than 4 million people in the UK will have diabetes.

Preparing our graduates for such a complex and uncertain future by integrating sustainability into the teaching of all courses is an essential element of a quality student experience that is fit for the 21st century. The challenge for the People & Planet team, helped perhaps by many of the universities that did not participate in this year’s assessment, is to design a credible system for measuring the impact of the student experience and students’ engagement with sustainability.

Stephen Martin Former chair of the Higher Education Academy’s education for sustainable development advisory group

I'd say that P&P won't dare look at any of this, in part because they wouldn't know where to start.  As was noted the other day, the P&P methodology only devotes 9% of its weighting to education [actually, to 'ESD'], and that is already fragmented into:

  • Commitment and Governance for Education for Sustainable Development (25%)
  • Implementing and Tracking Progress in Education for Sustainable Development (30%)
  • Supporting Academic Staff (25%)
  • Education for Sustainable Development Actions (20%)

... which by my reckoning leaves just 2% [ 20% of 9% ] of the weighting having anything to do with the actual teaching / learning experience.  All the rest is just, one way or another, bubble/babble about 'quality'.

This letter comes a week after Graham Gibbs' intervention (also in the THE) in which he calls for more focus on the process of teaching / learning: "what institutions do with whatever students they have, using whatever resources are available".  Taken together, they are a massive blow to the credibility of what P&P offers – and QAA, of course.  Such a shame that P&P will not know how to respond, despite its new partnership with EAUC / AUDE.

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates


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