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Core issues: Reflections on sustainability in Australian University coursework programs

Kate Sherren (Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 1 October 2006



In addition to mapping the consistency in rhetoric behind education for sustainability, despite changes in jargon over the past 30 years, this paper endeavours to estimate the degree to which these ideas have been integrated into the Australian tertiary sector.


The results of a recent internet‐based audit of tertiary environmental and sustainability offerings are used to reflect upon key ideas associated with a liberal sustainability education: interdisciplinarity, cosmopolitanism and civics.


Sustainability is not yet well integrated in specialist or generalist coursework programs in Australia, largely due to a “customer”‐focused higher education sector. Additionally, the emphasis of such programs is usually technological solutions and scientific ken, to the detriment of human cultures and behavioural change.

Practical implications

Concrete recommendations are given to inform the development of appropriate generalist sustainability curricula, including liberal characteristics such as broad foundational years, and increased historical, spatial and cultural context.


This paper provides a valuable overview of progress towards sustainability in Australian university programs, based on a comprehensive survey, and with a minimum of new jargon to ensure accessibility for practitioners.



Sherren, K. (2006), "Core issues: Reflections on sustainability in Australian University coursework programs", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 400-413.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited