University of Sheffield announces sustainability education across all courses in response to climate emergency

Staff and students at the University of Sheffield at a climate strike rally

The University of Sheffield has announced that it will educate the ‘change makers of the future’ by embedding teaching about sustainability across all of its courses in response to the climate emergency.

At a rally to mark the global climate strike today (20 September 2019), President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Koen Lamberts told staff and students that the University is committed to embedding Education for Sustainable Development into the curriculum of every course over the next five years.

In a speech, he said: “As a large research university, we are in a truly unique and powerful position to help tackle climate change and make a positive impact on the world we live in.

"We do research that really makes a contribution. Hundreds of our academics and students work on a huge range of highly relevant topics – from energy technology, sustainable food production, atmospheric chemistry to policy and behaviour change – to give just a few examples.

"Our research in these areas makes a real difference, and more and more researchers at the University are discovering the relevance of their work for solving the problem we face.

“Another important way in which we can help – in which we have to help - is by educating the next generation - the students we stand with now and the young people who will be most affected by the impact of climate change in the years to come.

“That’s why I am announcing today that we will be embedding Education for Sustainable Development into the curriculum of every course we offer at our University. Whether our students go on to become doctors, engineers, scientists, economists or historians, we want them to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, values and attributes they need to work and live in a sustainable way.

“We want them to make an impact and find solutions to the environmental, economic and social challenges that we face. Sheffield students can be the change makers for a sustainable future and we are committed to providing them with the education they need to make the world a better place."

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) originated as a United Nations programme that encourages changes in knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to enable a more sustainable and just society for all. It encourages a holistic approach to sustainability knowledge that goes beyond ‘being green’.

The University will work in partnership with Sheffield Students’ Union and course representatives to shape how it embeds Education for Sustainable Development in all subject areas.

Sheffield students can be the change makers for a sustainable future and we are committed to providing them with the education they need to make the world a better place.

Professor Koen lamberts

The announcement reflects the University’s commitment to sustainability, outlined in its Sustainability Strategy, and the desire of students to learn more about environmental issues and how they can improve practices in their lives and future workplaces.

An international survey by the National Union of Students in 2018 found that 70 per cent of students would like to see sustainable development incorporated into and promoted through all courses.

Professor Lamberts also told staff and students that the University is developing an action plan to become carbon neutral. He said: "Our aim is to become one of the most sustainable research intensive universities in the country. We know there is still a lot of work to do, particularly on emissions, but we are committed to taking a science-led approach in developing an action plan for becoming carbon neutral.

"We will be setting this out in our new five-year Sustainability Strategy, which we look forward to sharing with you later this year."

The University of Sheffield has already been taking positive action to make its campus and operations more sustainable.

For example, the University has cut its emissions by over 30 per cent since 2005 and is on track to meet its 43 per cent reduction target by 2020. Earlier this year, it completed its divestment from fossil fuel companies, which means it no longer holds any shares in any companies engaged in fossil fuel extraction or processing. The University’s transport fleet is now over 30 per cent electric and it will be continuing to introduce new electric vehicles as new models become available. It is also continuing to invest in its campus to ensure that walking and cycling are the most attractive options when travelling to and around the University.

Find out more about Sustainability at Sheffield

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact: 

Hannah Postles
Public Affairs Manager
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046