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ESD and Future thinking

Since 2009 we have been embedding Education for Sustainable Development into the Curriculum across the whole university. This page explains what education for sustainable development is, why it is important and a timeline of how it has been integrated at NTU.

17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

What is Education for Sustainable Development?

To understand what Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is it is useful to know the difference between the word's sustainability and sustainable development. UNESCO outline the difference as:

'Sustainability is often thought of as a long-term goal (i.e. a more sustainable world), while sustainable development refers to the many processes and pathways to achieve it (e.g. sustainable agriculture and forestry, sustainable production and consumption, good government, research and technology transfer, education and training, etc.).'

Across the world and right here at NTU we have adopted the United nations 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development including the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which essentially provides us with the pathway to achieve a sustainable world. These goals are transformational with the principle of 'leaving no one behind'. However, it is widely recognised that in order to achieve this transformation, all of the SDGs are reliant on Education for Sustainable Development which is found in target 4.7 of the Quality Education Goal.

Sustainable Development goal 4.7 education for sustainable development

Education is essential for sustainable development

At NTU Education for Sustainable Development is about ensuring our teaching and learning practices are aligned to help fulfill the SDGs. In order to do this, we are integrating target 4.7:

'By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, amount others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture's contribution to sustainable development (United Nations 2015).'

We are committed to sending NTU students out into the world as global citizens, who are literate in sustainability and have an appreciation of social and cultural diversity. As an institution, we are committed to a social justice model of education. We have won awards for our pedagogical approaches such as SCALE-UP and Success for All which have helped to close gaps between groups of students. We offer scholarships for certain migrant groups including asylum seekers. We work with several initiatives such as the Helena Kennedy scheme, CARA, Free University Nottingham, and the Nottingham Refugee Forum to support refugee education. We also offer free or part-funded places on our Global Summer School for students from Africa and South Asia. For more about our approach, please view our Access and Participation Plan

Timeline of ESD

ESD is not a new concept, the critical role education plays in sustainable development has been recognised since the UN conference of Environment and Development; of course, environmental education has been around much longer than that.

In 2005, UNESCO launched its Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) aiming to encourage governments and policymakers to integrate sustainable development into all forms of education and learning.

Following this decade dedicated to ESD during 2015-2019 action has been scaled up via the Global Action Plan. As we go into the next decade, at NTU we are following the 2020-2030 improved UNESCO framework on ESD 'Education for Sustainable Development: towards achieving the SDGs'.

This framework aims to guide best practice by strengthening ESD presence and integrating it along with the SDGs into policies, learning environment, capacity building of education, empowerment and mobilisation of youth and local level action.

Our Green Academy team at NTU are here to provide pedagogical support to all of our academics to integrate this framework and its best practices into their teaching and learning. To find out more about the support offered please visit the 'get involved' page.

Food for Thought logo

Timeline of ESD at NTU and Our Future Thinking Framework

Our first approach to incorporate ESD into the curriculum was back in 2009/2010 via the Greening the Curriculum Group, who promoted and supported the development of specific modules and courses at NTU. This then naturally evolved into a more strategic group now called the NTU Sustainable Development Academic Forum. Academics from across the whole university come together quarterly to support the integration of ESD into the curriculum.

In its early stages, members of the forum set up the NTU 'Food for Thought' project as part of the Higher Education Academy Green Academy Change Programme. This is where the NTU Green Academy was brought to life, a dedicated team to ensure ESD is included across all NTUs curriculum.

In line with the university's strategy 'Creating the University of the Future', the Curriculum Refresh process was launched in 2016 to assess all 420 NTU courses over a period of three years. The Green Academy developed resources such as the Future Thinking Framework and a learning room to support academic in this process along with a series of workshops.

NTU Future Thinking Framework showing environment, social and economic sustainability with a future thinking mindset

The Future Thinking Framework was developed to foster students' abilities to understand and contribute in meaningful ways towards current and future challenges whether in a local or global context. It not only encompasses the traditional 3 pillars of sustainability but 'futureproofs' our students with the right knowledge, skills and attributes to contribute to a better future.

As we are about to launch into our new University Strategy 2025, it is clear the Green Academy will support the new UNESCO Framework for ESD as we embrace sustainability at NTU. We are supporting the opportunity to make all NTU students learning experiences transformational where they can gain the competencies they need to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. To find to more about any of the above please see our list of publications.