By Tabani Ndlovu, Helen Puntha & Sihle
Project Supervised by Dr Richard Howarth & Dr Petra
Background, Objectives and Response
This study forms part of NTU’s overall activity related to sustainability; a historic area of work for NTU but
one which is gaining pace and receiving more interest. A conceptual representation of sustainability drivers
at NTU from this project is shown below:
UUK UTC Environmental
SHED Network Sustainability
EAUC Staff Interest
QAA Social Economic
Benchmarks Pressures Pressures
The work follows a Scholarship Projects for Undergraduate Researchers (SPUR) funded study which
considered policy and documentary evidence. This work builds on the SPUR project by engaging NTU
academic staff directly to offer insight(s) into:
Sustainability related activities and practices within the NTU curricula
Related drivers for and barriers to sustainability activities and practices.
The following objectives guided the study and survey content:
1. Identify sustainability activities currently being carried out across the NTU curricula (including within physical and virtual
2. Using staff views, identify which (if any) organisational processes and structures inhibit or promote the implementation of
ESD (Education for Sustainable Development);
3. Gauge staff knowledge of and interest in sustainability; and
4. Offer recommendations on how to further embed ESD across NTU.
In terms of responses:
481 NTU staff accessed the survey and 201 completed it; 71% city staff, 22% Clifton staff and 7% Brackenhurst staff.
72% of those who completed the survey classed themselves as academic staff
o a 12% overall response rate from NTU academics; a good overall response to the survey
o a particularly good response from certain schools (e.g. ARES, NBS, SSS and ADBE)
With heterogeneity of disciplines across NTU and within schools some caution is needed with interpretation; are the responses
from interested individuals?
Highlights of Findings
With the above in mind, the key highlights from the survey findings are:
In total 89% believe that students are interested in sustainability but, for example:
o only 30% cited evidence of sustainability-related student inductions; although most saw evidence of
institutional commitment to sustainability on campus
o fewer than half saw evidence of ESD within NOW; although over half saw evidence on the NTU website
o less than half see sustainability-related careers or placement options but over half noted volunteering options
Objective 73% indicated that there was evidence of sustainability in the modules they led but, content was:
1 o mainly in the form of reading lists/guest speakers rather than ‘formal’ curriculum’
o largely driven by personal, programme, student and external factors not formal NTU drivers/commitments
Many see evidence of sustainability at programme and core module level however:
ESD content overall within the curricula occurs mainly in optional modules, topics / workshops; and is most
evident at undergraduate level
The Environmental dimension prevails in current and planned ESD content but:
o There seems to be a reasonable balance of environmental, social and economic ESD when ESD is a major
theme, research topic or assessed element.
Staff personal interest does not appear to be a barrier. Possible institutional barriers were highlighted:
o 59%cited a e lack of clarity over what ESD content to teach and 31% identify benchmarking problems
o 51% cited insufficient time to update courses and 36% financial restrictions
o 42% cited institutional approach to development and 34% cited irrelevance to programme leaders
o 38% see few inspiring examples and 69% are not willing to share examples
Very positive responses, overall, as to the inclusion of sustainability in and outside the curricula
Clear expression of meaning of sustainability but contextualised (i.e. to individual and course)?
Objective o Most, however, suggest a holistic definition of sustainability is needed
3 Personal interest in sustainability within home life overall prevalent (77% positive response), and
o majority express interest in teaching and research too but more evenly split
o Involvement in pastimes more positive than involvement in volunteering
Potential for positive skew in results due to respondents, their subject discipline and interest(s)?
The Overall Situation and Gap(s)?
The study, and the views reported herein, indicates a potential ‘gap’ between NTU’s overall sustainability-
related policy and operational activity and ESD in the curricula. This is consistent with the SPUR study
findings and the NTU 2010 UtC score. Overall this situation and the related ‘gap’ is summarised as follows:
ESD in curricula exists but there is some need to clarify and develop. For
Managing/promoting ESD (formally)
What is the NTU strategy for ESD; long-term vision?
What does ESD actually mean to NTU (i.e. how does NTU interpret the
ESD/global citizenship agenda formally?)
How does ESD relate to the curricula and the product(s) of this? (E.g.
What are the NTU structures for embedding and developing ESD across
the curricula and university as a whole; do they relate and how?
o E.g. does what NTU is currently doing outside the formal curricula
relate? How is this communicated etc? Student journey?
o What is the actual demand from students and employers?
What are the ‘targets’ and performance indications and approaches to
measurement of ESD?
ESD curricula content (formally)
For example, and related to and led by the above:
o How does/can NTU share (more widely?) what is currently happening
to promote further action?
o How does NTU facilitate staff involvement in ESD and support
development(s); i.e. wider embrace of sustainability within curricula,
wider engagement of schools/activities as necessary?
How does this/can this related to the existing processes for enhancement and
Summary and Recommendations
The above can be seen as a positive position for NTU, for example;
There is an apparent convergence, not divergence, between what NTU and staff are seeking to achieve related to
sustainability / ESD:
o NTU’s new strategy further clarifies this position and includes sustainability graduate attributes,
o The new ILTES engages the new graduate attributes and its consideration within NTU L&T processes,
There are, overall, positive attitudes towards sustainability and ESD from staff related to current activity.
It is reported that students are interested in ESD and external agencies (e.g. employers and professional bodies) are also
interested, (Cade, 2008); (both these are active drivers leading to inclusion of content in the formal curricula)
There is much activity outside the formal curricula and thus much to share with staff and students and others,
There is also much current activity within the curricula (and wider area of research) that can also be shared internally and/or
It is evident, however, that there are some areas for clarity/development, for example:
It is reported that most activity does not come as a result of NTU policy or requirements at present,
Academic staff are unclear what NTU expects in this area or how NTU defines ESD/sustainability and/or how this area relates
to others (for example, global citizenship; particularly in the context of UKPSF?)
o Can this link to processes for staff induction and development too?
ESD-related activity occurs sporadically across different: ‘levels’ of study; disciplines; schools and/or colleges; although
sustainability will have varied/various interpretations and relevance (can however, also be related to the above and below)
Currently no formal NTU-wide processes for promoting and assuring ESD content and development(s); and in the case of the
above why developments have or have not occurred?
In overall support of the Universities that Count, (UtC) recommendations, and with a focus on structural
elements as a result of the findings at this stage, the following are recommended:
Supporting ESD Formally in Curricula Content
Proactive communications, guidance and examples
o Sustainability as a clear commitment and graduate attribute – already achieved
o Establish approaches/mechanisms for communicating the above; linked also to the ILTES below
o Consider and establish approaches and mechanisms for communicating current activity, achievements and
examples of good practice (from within and outside the curricula), E.g:
Communications & sharing information, examples & guidance with staff/students
Include in student and staff induction communications/training (E.g. PGCHE?)
Possible programme of open lectures, possibly involving the community?
Supporting Implementation and progress
o Key to above and below:
Review TOR and membership of BGCG (i.e. in line with this report and as proposed in ILTES to clarify role
and representation necessary to deliver commitments, ensure coverage and secure on-going development
and achievement of outcomes)
Consider and include student representation too?
o Build on and implement commitments and approaches in NTU strategy and ILTES
o In context of above, and linked to BGCG, consider the means to support/guide ESD activity; e.g. strengthening
of links between principal agent for ILTES action BGCG and secondary agent LTCN, development of guidance
and input at school/college level to support existing QA/QE approaches and frameworks (current and new
provision) as necessary
o Facilitate a rolling programme of staff development across NTU, maybe to include, E.g:
Train the trainer and subsequent roll-out of programme throughout NTU,
Staff development by way of volunteering (recognised in PDR)
o Further engagement of students with ESD via wider activities:
E.g. more formal recognition of student volunteering (i.e. within curricula)?
o Investigate placement, career and, for example, HIVE opportunities as relevant
o Internal reporting on performance; and external as necessary.
Managing and Promoting ESD Formally
Strategy, structure and process
o Further investigate actual ESD interest from NTU students and employer organisations
o Define/clarify NTU’s interpretation of sustainability and ESD and communicate this
o Consider long(er) term vision for sustainability (i.e. beyond current strategy window)
o Establish benchmarks and performance indicators as necessary for ESD; use existing not new
structures/approaches; include processes for monitoring too