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Reviewing the incidence and status of sustainability in degree programmes at Plymouth University

Lynne Wyness (Centre for Sustainable Futures/PedRIO (Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory), Plymouth University, Plymouth, United Kingdom)
Stephen Sterling (Centre for Sustainable Futures/PedRIO (Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory), Plymouth University, Plymouth, United Kingdom)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 2 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to present an overview of the design and implementation of a curriculum review undertaken at Plymouth University, UK, to gauge the incidence and status of sustainability in degree programmes across the curriculum. The paper outlines the methodological approach taken, reviews findings and summarises the effects and limitations of the exercise.

Design/methodology/approach

Rather than creating a criteria-based auditing tool, which might have been interpreted by academics as top-down evaluation of practice, emphasis was placed on self-evaluation of how the degree programmes were implementing sustainability in a number of broad areas, such as curriculum content, pedagogical approaches and student engagement. A review tool was created and distributed to all undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in the four campus-based faculties in the university. In particular, the review was designed to contribute the institutional annual submissions to the Learning in Future Environments index.

Findings

The paper discusses findings in some key areas relating to curriculum content, pedagogical approaches, partnerships and student engagement. Some of the obstacles and limitations identified by programme leaders in implementing education for sustainable development are discussed and areas of future consideration are included.

Originality/value

The review contributes to the limited national and international examples available of institution-wide curriculum reviews in the arena of education for sustainable development. The discussion of the problems, benefits and implications will be of value to other higher education institutions considering undertaking their own curriculum review.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the staff at Plymouth University who facilitated or completed the sustainability review.

Citation

Wyness, L. and Sterling, S. (2015), "Reviewing the incidence and status of sustainability in degree programmes at Plymouth University", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 237-250. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-09-2013-0112

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited