Last word from St George's

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

This is the programme for the second morning of the 2nd St George's House consultation on the SDGs which ended with lunch last Friday.

Lessons from elsewhere

  • David Pencheon (NHS)
  • Louise Scott (PWC)
  • Emily Auckland (UK SSD)

Group discussions

  • How can University and College education further the pursuit of the SDGs?
  • How can University and College education offer constructive input to the concept and implementation of the SDGs, and to the wider pursuit of sustainability?
  • What outcomes might we see if we have tertiary education considering sustainability and informed by and informing the SDGs?

Plenary feedback, Final thoughts, Lunch, ...


The main impression made on me by the 'Lessons from elsewhere' session was that universities risk being left behind in the embrace of the Goals.  Far from a reluctant world of work being forced by HE to take the goals seriously, the reverse would seem more likely to be the case with an enthusiastic set of employers exerting a strong pull on HE.

It would be misleading to paint this too starkly, as there are active universities (and especially students) as well as laggard businesses, but the PWC input about the involvement of the business world was striking.  The opportunities and benefits of a partnership between the NUS and the world of work seem clear, especially given the continued indifference of the DfE, the Office for Students, the HEA, UUK, Guild HE, QAA, etc, etc.

I remain positive about the 24 hours.  The mix of people was a major contributor to this, as was their willingness to contribute.  All this was even better than the first consultation, I felt, and I thought that had been good.  In the end there were enough academics in the mix to ground it in the reality of life in HE (but not, sadly, FE).  Also, my feeling that ESD would be the ghost at the feast proved misplaced as hardly anyone mentioned it – probably because they'd not heard of it.  Instead, there was much talk of purpose, process and strategy.

One key difference between the two consultations was the willingness of participants to critique the Goals, and to say that they needed critiquing; it was there in the first meeting but absent in the second.  This is, perhaps, worrying as it's universities that, historically have had this social critique role.  Given the pull factors from the world of work, perhaps it is a role that needs to be emphasised by those working with and in HE.

But who's going to do that?  Not DfE, the Office for Students, the HEA, UUK, Guild HE, QAA, etc, etc, as they are quite indifferent.  How about EAUC?  UKSSD?  NUS?  That seems doubtful as all these are more usually seen as cheerleaders than critical friends.  Clearly some HE staff will do this as part of their work because that's part of an academic tradition – and a good thing too.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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  • This post seems to epitomize the problems we face in trying to 'institutionalize' sustainability - a sort of, the band played while the ship went down. I see so many people involved and eager to somehow create this change, but keep wanting to do it within the existing framework of hyper-consumerism (HC). We keep wanting to simply 'reform' society to be sustainable when what is needed is to 'transform' completely. We debate acceptable goals for SGD that everyone trapped in this HC belief system can agree upon, but meanwhile, the ship sinks lower and lower and soon the band will be unable to play at all. So how do you refloat a damaged sinking sink while it is sinking? The urgency for this kind of discussion seems long overdue.