Education for Sustainable Development

As a University, our greatest contribution to sustainability solutions comes from the students we nurture to become the researchers and business leaders of the future.

Economics students in lecture theatre

We take the responsibility of preparing students for the world of work seriously. Regardless of their course, our students need to understand the challenges and opportunities sustainability provides. We're committed to providing a rounded education, ensuring that all of our graduates leave Sheffield with the knowledge and skills to make a difference in their chosen profession.

What is Education for Sustainable Development?

Our aspiration is to equip our students with the knowledge, skills, values and attributes needed to work and live in a way that will bring about solutions to the urgent environmental, economic and social challenges that we face. We're working to embed Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into the Sheffield student experience, both within the formal curriculum and in their wider student experience while at Sheffield.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) emerges from the UN’s vision of Sustainable Development. This is a vision of social, environmental and economic sustainability. 

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals are a valuable starting point for thinking about the future of our world. These are described by the UN as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.’ 

As a university, we are committed to constructive, critical thinking on the issue of sustainable development. While the SDGs are a starting point for us, it is important that we keep asking: What is ‘good change’? How should it happen? Who decides? 

We understand that sustainable development needs to be grounded in principles of peace, justice and equality. It also needs to focus on the future of all life - not just human life. This means that when we are thinking about sustainable development we need to be ready to ask big questions about the way that the world currently works, and how it might change in the future.

As a learning institution, we will embrace the opportunity to continue exploring what sustainable development means in principle and practice.

What does ESD mean for the University of Sheffield?

We're working to embed ESD into the Sheffield student experience, both within the formal curriculum and in the wider student experience while at Sheffield.

ESD has three elements:

What we teach

Enabling our students to access the curriculum content they need to critically understand the key issues facing our world today:

  • Understand the concept of sustainable development & its importance
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the UN SDGs
  • Use knowledge from their studies to discuss key issues in sustainable development, their challenges, and potential solutions
  • Explain and explore the importance of the political, socio- cultural and economic context in which change happen
How we teach

Offering our students the opportunity to learn in an applied, collaborative, participatory fashion:

  • Explain and explore the importance of collaboration in knowledge creation, and the value of different forms of knowledge
  • Translate the findings of their knowledge for different audiences and incorporate the input of different audiences into their work.
Who we are

Helping our staff and students to play their part in a sustainable future through global empathy, solidarity, and a commitment to good change:

  • Act in ways that positively contribute to sustainable development Understand the value of reflection, learning and change as a lifelong journey for individuals and institutions
  • Help to create environments that are committed to collaboration, inclusivity, diversity, and equality
  • Demonstrate a commitment to understanding socio-cultural, economic and political dynamics across the globe
  • Demonstrate a capacity to exercise global empathy and solidarity.

Tracking our progress

The ESD Working Group is responsible for driving and tracking progress towards integrating ESD in our courses. It is made up of professional service and academic staff with responsibility for sustainability and curriculum-based decisions, along with student representatives. It includes senior representatives from relevant areas and reports to the Sustainability Steering Group, which in turn reports directly to the University Executive Board.

Membership of the ESD Working Group
Name Role
SJ Cooper-Knock Academic Lead for ESD
Ali Riley Academic Develpment / Elevate
Angela Hoare Academic Develpment / Elevate
Helen Smith Associate Director of S&AS (Careers and Employability Services)
James Merryclough Sustainability & Communications Manager
Lily Byrne Students' Union President
Welfare and Sustainability Officer - Jo Campling Students' Union Officer - Welfare and Sustainability
Maria J Lourido Moreno Students' Union Officer - Education
Joanne Thompson Senior University Teacher - Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine and Population Health
Lee Crookes University Teacher - Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Rachael Rothman Academic Lead for Sustainability
Associate Director Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures
Hugo Dobson Faculty Director of One University Strategy Delivery (Social Sciences)
Dorothea J Kleine Director of the Institute for Global Sustainable Development
Caoimhe Nic Dhaibheid Director of Learning and Teaching
Tim Herrick Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Stephanie Butcher Lecturer in Global Sustainable Development
Pete Mylon Faculty Co-ordinator for Co-Curricular Activities, iForge

The ESD Working Group reports on a quarterly basis to the Sustainability Steering Group, which reports bi-monthly to the University Executive Board.

Our sustainability strategy

We have set the principles and direction for our sustainability strategy