Building Capacity:Enabling University Leaders to Serve as Role Models for Sustainable Development

This source preferred by Chris Shiel

Authors: Shiel, C.

Journal: International Journal of Sustainability Education

Volume: 8

Issue: 1

Pages: 29-45

Publisher: Common Ground

ISSN: 1832-2077

Bournemouth University (BU) has been amongst the leaders in UK higher education in terms of its ambition to develop graduates as global citizens who understand the need for sustainable development. It has also led the way in terms of a holistic approach to sustainability which embraces curriculum, campus and community.

External indicators of success have included achieving the "Eco-Campus Gold Award" (only five other UK universities have Gold or above) and rising up the UK-based People and Planet Green League Table from 20th to 5th place in 2011. Internally, the curriculum validation process has been successful in ensuring that all course teams address sustainability at course review; staff development has supported this endeavour. In the community, support has been given to local stakeholders (including Bournemouth Council) to implement the Earth Charter and to local businesses. Although achievements have been considerable, they have been largely driven, bottom-up, by a handful of committed champions. In 2011, a project was undertaken to secure a step change, gain greater leadership support for this agenda and to begin to develop an ethos that this is a collective responsibility. This paper will set out how the project has attempted to provide university board members and senior staff with the opportunity to consider how they serve as role models for leadership behaviour in sustainable development, and secure campus-wide buy in to carbon reduction. An action learning approach has provided board members and staff with the space to critically reflect on their roles and to develop coherent action plans for sustainable development. Analysis of the success of the approach and the leadership behaviours identified is provided. The conclusion suggests that while there has been some success, more work is required if higher education leaders are to fully incorporate sustainable development into their day-to-day actions.

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