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New tools put students at forefront of shaping sustainability learning and avoiding education greenwash

University of Gloucestershire – a trailblazer in Education for Sustainability – has developed an innovative blueprint to set quality standards in sustainability learning and empower students to influence their education and build their professional skills.

The University-led project – funded by the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) – is enabling students to ask important questions about the authenticity and depth of sustainability learning at their university, and drive high-quality Education for Sustainability (EfS) into mainstream university courses.

In partnership with King’s College London and University of the Arts London, the cutting-edge project drew on best practice and an Education for Sustainability assessment approach developed at the University, that can be applied to courses across the UK Higher Education (HE) sector.

Students played dynamic roles as co-producers in the project team, as quality assessors rating their courses, creating online speed-training and an ‘anti-greenwash education kit’. The kit was inspired by national student quality advisers, and recommendations from a student-led review of EfS development in higher education through the eyes of the learner.

The digital resource includes six short films co-created by students for students, to equip them with simple principles to appraise the quality of EfS in their courses. It also enables academic teams to benchmark their course innovations to reflect best practice in EfS and the priorities of students.

The full range of the project’s findings, activities and outputs will be disseminated at a QAA webinar on Wednesday, 5 July, and via the project website.

Dr Alex Ryan, Director of Sustainability at the University, said: “We’re excited that this project is starting a new dialogue, to trigger a step change in how we advance quality sustainability learning across higher education.

“The project’s principles are based on new practice developed at University of Gloucestershire, where we are integrating a quality-led learning strategy for sustainability, and giving the students to power to challenge and rate their sustainability learning right across the portfolio.

“This is no longer a niche issue but central to where the education of the future has to go. Our student collaborators have helped spotlight what matters most to them – to build their professional skills in sustainability and maximise the impact they can have as graduates leading this change”.

Bea Hughes, EfS Co-ordinator and student lead on the project, said: “EfS is the most significant way universities can change the world for the better. We need all students, in all courses, to get this learning, and we don’t want to see the sector slide into curriculum greenwash.

“This project has been inspiring – being part of educational change at a university where students are intrinsically involved as part of our commitment to dynamic education for a sustainable future.”

This University of Gloucestershire-led project was funded by QAA in its Collaborative Enhancement Projects cycle 2021-2023.