Strategic Review of Sustainable Development in Higher Education

Funded by: Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)


December 2006 to September 2007

PSI researchers:

Malcolm Rigg

Background, summary and aims

Background and Aims

The strategic review had the following aims:

  • To establish a baseline of sustainable development in the sector, against which HEFCE can measure progress and publicise what the sector is already doing
  • To learn from institutions’ experience about the conditions for embedding sustainable development, including barriers and drivers
  • To identify key issues which present opportunities and challenges for the sector and investigate possible policy responses
  • To evaluate HEFCE’s approach and refine HEFCE’s priorities
  • To raise the profile of sustainable development in the sector.

Project Design

The strategic review sought to distinguish between the following key elements that are relevant to sustainable development in higher education:

  • Research in HEIs, and specifically research that is relevant to sustainable development
  • Teaching in HEIs, considering both the curriculum, or curricula, that are relevant to sustainable development, the processes through which teaching is carried out, and the concept of ‘literacy’ in respect of sustainable development
  • Corporate management in HEIs, in terms of management of HEIs’ core business (teaching and research), their personnel, their estates, and the environmental impacts of all their activities.

Importance of Research

The Strategic Review aimed to establish a baseline of activity relating to sustainable development within the Higher Education sector in England and to enable HEFCE to learn from the experience of institutions as they seek to embed sustainable development within their practices. The Review identifies Institutions which are carrying out exemplar activities related to sustainable development, and the main barriers that hinder institutions when attempting to pursue such activities. The results of the Review were published by HEFCE in January 2008.

Related publications / project outputs

HEFCE strategic review of sustainable development in higher education in England