Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a concept which runs through the curriculum at the University of Exeter. It underpins not only the Aims of the Education Strategy, but also feeds strongly into the Graduate Attributes.

About ESD

ESD involves more than just incorporating and gaining an understanding of environmental issues within the curriculum, but more deeply, it’s about how you learn and your whole orientation and attitude to society. According to UNESCO: "ESD empowers learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society, for present and future generations, while respecting cultural diversity. It is about lifelong learning, and is an integral part of quality education. ESD is holistic and transformational education which addresses learning content and outcomes, pedagogy and the learning environment. It achieves its purpose by transforming society".

To find out more about ESD, please access the UNESCO: Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development resource.

Applying ESD at Exeter

To explore how ESD is having an impact at Exeter, please access the following links and resources:

The Students' Guild Green Unit empowers students at Exeter to create sustainability projects. Training, mentoring and funding is provided to support students to address environmental and ethical concerns through practical projects and projects fostering behaviour-change. Projects they have supported include Face2Face and UniSave.

Green Consultants is an exciting initiative led by the Employability and Graduate Development (EGD) team which invites all students, from any discipline, with a passion for a career in sustainability or the environment to become a Green Consultant, in order to gain practical experience in these fields alongside their degree. Students attend a short training course before undertaking a project where they put what they have learned into practice, and finally undertake a related internship.

Students As Change Agents is an innovative scheme which allows students to actively shape their time here at Exeter. Students are encouraged to think about areas they would like to improve at the University, for example, in relation to teaching and learning, and to work with their peers to research solutions and then put these into practice. 

Grand Challenges is an interdisciplinary programme where University of Exeter undergraduates and top academics collaborate in research groups to tackle some of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century. Grand Challenges will run as a week-long event in the summer.

The University's MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions encouraged learners, both within and beyond the University, to examine the current concerns surrounding climate change. Researchers from a range of disciplines here at Exeter worked in partnership, alongside the UK Met Office, to deliver the MOOC. 

Flexible Combined Honours (FCH) Global Futures - Sustainability Pathway programme at Exeter offers students the opportunity to create a Global Futures – Sustainability themed pathway to their degree. This allows students to gain a greater understanding of key environmental issues, such as climate change, food provision, energy resources and biodiversity, to develop their knowledge of sustainability and enhance their employability. 

Recognising that businesses today are being challenged by changing international social, economic, environmental and also technological factors, the One Planet MBA, led by the University of Exeter Business School, aims to provide students with the business thinking and models that will allow them to effectively manage these impacts.

Mapping the Education Strategy to the UNESCO Dimensions of ESD

The recently published  UNESCO: Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development affirms our Graduate Attributes and key elements of our Strategy as central to the ESD agenda. At Exeter, we have developed the way we embed ESD in our curriculum, not least by making this an integral part of our Education Strategy. The Strategy refers explicitly to sustainability and includes a statement of Graduate Attributes that all curricula should seek to develop. The table below shows how the Exeter Graduate Attributes and Education Strategy Aims map against the UNESCO dimensions of ESD.  

UNESCO Dimensions of ESDExeter Education Strategy and Graduate Attributes 2014-2020
Learning content:  Integrating critical issues, such as climate change, biodiversity, disaster risk reduction (DRR), and sustainable consumption and production (SCP), into the curriculum.      Strategic Aim Six:Multi-disciplinary learning that tackles contemporary global challenges
  • Objective II: To provide all students with the opportunity to explore the relevance of different disciplines to contemporary challenges facing the world
This aim is supported by a number of actions, including the commitment to continue to support the extension of sustainability literacy within the curriculum as part of our institutional commitment to sustainability.
Pedagogy and learning environments: Designing teaching and learning in an interactive, learner-centred way that enables exploratory, action-oriented and transformative learning. Rethinking learning environments – physical as well as virtual and online – to inspire learners to act for sustainability.      

Strategic Aim Three: Research-inspired, inquiry-led learning and discovery

  • Objective I. To enable every student to learn with the creators of world-leading research
  • Objective II. To extend the opportunities for students to discover and learn in innovative ways through their own research and inquiry in each year of study
  • Objective III. To improve the research environment by enhancing the quality of support and facilities for postgraduate students and research

Strategic Aim Five: First class face-to-face educational experiences enhanced with a variety of technologies

  • Objective I. To ensure all students are taught and supported by the very best educators, providing inspiring, challenging and innovative learning
  • Objective II. To make available the best learning spaces and technologies
  • Objective III. To equip students and staff with the ability to use technologies effectively for learning and student success

This aim is supported by commitment to a number of actions, including: to create virtual collaborative spaces to facilitate collaborative student research and the sharing of resources; to support a programme of curriculum development with disciplines across the university to introduce new approaches and elements to the curriculum to enable students to undertake more research; to provide role models, mentors, champions and change agents to inform the development of the most positive environment to nurture student research, from undergraduate to doctoral; to review working practices on campus with the aim to improve the efficiency of how we use the learning spaces available and the structure of the working day, whilst maintaining high levels of student engagement with their studies; the further development of MOOCs to bring free learning to thousands; to upgrade our virtual learning environment, learning management systems, student portal, on-line course management system and mobile and video capability.      

Learning outcomes:  Stimulating learning and promoting core competencies, such as critical and systemic thinking, collaborative decision-making, and taking responsibility for present and future generations. 

Our Mission

To create an internationally exceptional educational experience for all our students that equips them to make a positive difference in the world.

Graduate Attribute 1: An imaginative and critical thinker and problem solver 

  • The ability to think critically, analyse, and challenge, is the essence of what makes Exeter students valuable citizens, attractive graduate employees and investable entrepreneurs.

Graduate Attribute 3: A creative and enterprising team player  

  • Exeter graduates will possess the creativity and drive to inspire change, with an ability to work collaboratively with the widest range of people, whatever their chosen professions.

Graduate Attribute 5: A confident, resilient and adaptable individual 

  • Exeter graduates will be equipped to be effective and influential in any context, with the integrity, attitude, mental resourcefulness and knowledge to succeed, regardless of personal circumstance.

Societal transformation:  Empowering learners of any age, in any education setting, to transform themselves and the society they live in.

  • Enabling a transition to greener economies and societies.
    --Equipping learners with skills for ‘green jobs’.
    -- Motivating people to adopt sustainable lifestyles.
  • Empowering people to be ‘global citizens’ who engage and assume active roles, both locally and globally, to face and to resolve global challenges and ultimately to become proactive contributors to creating a more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world.

Strategic Aim One: Academically-able students from across the world empowered as engaged learners and agents of change

  • Objective III. To inspire students to lead change, in the University and community, both globally and locally

Graduate Attribute 2: An active global citizen

  • Our graduates will leave the University of Exeter with a commitment to actively engage in society, an awareness of sustainability issues, and an understanding of the cultures and view of others in the world, and a desire to further the common good.

Graduate Attribute 4: An engaged and participative leader able to effect change

  • All Exeter students will graduate with experience of leading and effecting change, empowering them to make a responsible and sustainable difference as a future leader, whatever the context.