Education for Sustainability: Not Yet on A Sustainable Footing (Parallel Paper)

25th May 202310:55Tivoli Suite


Students’ interest in sustainability is growing. In 2014 a large HEA and NUS survey found that 68% of first year students agreed “Sustainable development is something which all university courses should actively incorporate and promote”¹.  The most recent annual Sustainability Skills Survey of UK students found that 79% agreed “universities and colleges should be obliged to develop students’ social and environmental skills as part of the courses they offer”². 

Over the 2022/23 academic year our cross-college team at King’s College London have been conducting a literature review, seeking to build an overview of the concepts, models, and ideas for embedding ESD, how they have been operationalised and pursued within or outside degree curricula.

In this paper we will explore one of the key themes emerging from our research so far. Across the world we can see pockets of successful practice emerging as universities attempt to educate a sustainability literature workforce. Individual university teachers and teams are working to promote environmental literacy among their students. However, while 79% of UK students might feel their universities should be developing their environmental skills, we have not yet reached a point were 79% of graduates are more environmentally aware than they when they started their course of study.

We will discuss the links between information literacy and environmental literacy alongside the role librarians could play in developing the latter by embedding it within their workshops and learning resources³.

¹ Drayson, R., Bone, E., Agombar, J., & Kemp, S. (2014). Student attitudes towards and skills for sustainable development. Higher Education Academy.  

² Students Organising for Sustainability United Kingdom (2022). Sustainability Skills Survey 2021-22.

³ Repanovici A, Salcă Rotaru C, Murzea C. (2021). Development of Sustainable Thinking by Information Literacy. Sustainability. 13:3.