Part 1 - Orientation
The Leading Curriculum Change for Sustainability: Strategic Approaches to Quality Enhancement project started from the impetus to scale up engagement with EfS as a systemic curriculum development issue for Higher Education. It had a specific strategic intention, to connect EfS with systems for Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Enhancement (QE), working ‘on the ground’ in five institutions and at the sector level.
The aim at institutional level was to support pilot projects in a range of universities, so that each one could test out ways to use EfS as part of their regular work to promote the quality of learning and teaching. At sector level, the aim was to improve dialogue and understanding around EfS in relation to Quality, working with agencies that have oversight of professional practice, quality and standards in Higher Education, whilst also taking perspective from expert informants and key stakeholders.
The project was underpinned by action learning approaches, recognising the sector need for real lessons about institution-wide curriculum change. In a changing sector which is increasingly responsive to cross-cutting education priorities and agendas, the relevance of the project also extends beyond EfS, providing insights into the realities of curriculum change in the changing sector.
The project took place in the wake of the 2010 Browne review and subsequent changes to the funding of UK Higher Education, which meant that the institutional pilot projects unfolded in organisations experiencing rapid and often substantive changes to their structures, priorities and missions. The insights gained in relation to planning and securing institution-wide change in learning and teaching practice will continue to be relevant to any intervention aimed at systemic curriculum enhancement.
Outcomes from the Project
At each of the pilot institutions, steps were taken to identify suitable pathways to EfS as part of the ongoing approach to the enhancement of quality. The pilot projects lasted for one year and were realistic about the extent of change that could be achieved in this short space of time. However, at each institution, measures were put in place to move EfS further along the spectrum from enhancement to assurance, establishing an approach to help secure the foundations of EfS as an institution-wide curriculum concern.
The project achieved important outcomes at sector level through the work of the core team and in collaboration with the UK Quality Assurance Agency and other stakeholders. Through these activities, the project:
- Initiated sector dialogue through the national Project Conference held in July 2012, with contributions from key Higher Education sector agencies, expert advisers, leaders and managers, students and academics
- Informed the development of a new national Guidance Briefing on EfS commissioned by the QAA for development in 2012-13, by holding meetings with QAA and dialogue to inform the planning stages with external advisers and conference participants
- Triggered plans for an inter-sectoral event in 2013, to be organised and co-led by key sector stakeholders, including HEFCE, QAA, NUS and HEA, to improve cross-agency working and sector-wide engagement with EfS
- Underpinned the development of this Guide to Quality and Education for Sustainability, available to the sector as a practical resource to support strategic, quality-oriented initiatives to embed EfS in the curriculum
- Informed dialogue related to the inclusion of EfS in UK Quality Code for HE as part of the new Learning and Teaching chapter, in relation to the strategic approaches institutions take to include cross-cutting education themes
- Has been invited to bring findings and expert mentoring to inform the Higher Education Academy’s Green Academy initiative in 2012-13
- Opened dialogue with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, to explore pathways for the integration of project findings within top management training programmes
In addition, the project team made several presentations at sector conferences in relation to education change, leadership, institutional research and quality assurance. It also featured as an example of good practice in a number of publications and international reviews. These materials can be accessed through the kitbag here.
Stephen Marston (Vice Chancellor, University of Gloucestershire) comments on the importance of the project to the University and its alignment with its longstanding commitment to EfS.
Anthony McClaran (CEO, QAA) comments on the importance of the project in locating EfS as a quality assurance issue.
Andrew Smith (Head of Estates and Sustainable Development, HEFCE) the project funder identifies the significance of the project and the success of its implementation.
Simon Kemp (Academic Lead in ESD, HEA) recognises the timeliness of this agenda and how the project team has responded to an important need in designing and delivering the project.