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05 December 2007
It is now two years since the United Nation’s ‘Decade of Education for Sustainable Development’ challenged educators to integrate sustainability principles into "all aspects of learning." This posed difficult questions for all teaching institutions about how to measure progress and assess how well students are taught about sustainability issues. Help is now at hand in the form of an innovative audit tool developed at Cardiff which can help academics to assess the coverage of sustainability within their courses.
The tool was developed by Rodrigo Lozano, studying for a PhD at the Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS), following the completion of a Masters degree in which he specialised in sustainability strategies for European Higher Education institutions. The on-line audit tool allows lecturers to assess how well individual modules, whole degree schemes or entire Schools cover sustainability issues in terms of both breadth and depth. It provides a systematic assessment of course content across a wide range of economic, social and environmental themes linked to sustainability. The tool measures the depth at which particular themes are covered, and also the level of inter-linkage between themes.
The tool has been piloted by auditing 5,400 undergraduate modules currently offered at Cardiff University. The results provide a comprehensive picture of sustainability in the curriculum that can inform the teaching development strategy of the institution as a whole, as well as for individual schools and courses. It represents the most systematic approach to sustainability auditing for the academic curriculum employed anywhere in the world to date.
BRASS was asked to carry out the audit by the University’s Society and Community Sub-panel as part of Cardiff’s drive to incorporate sustainable development into its policies, research, teaching, resource use, responsibility, outreach and governance. To tackle the audit Rodrigo combined his experience in sustainability education with his expertise in implementing business sustainability strategies, and the Sustainability Tool for Auditing University Curricula in Higher Education (STAUNCH) was the result of his efforts.
BRASS is making STAUNCH available to other Universities and Colleges to allow academics elsewhere to benefit from a definitive understanding of how green their courses are.
Professor Ken Peattie, BRASS Director, said: "Rodrigo has developed a very flexible technique which allows University schools and departments to see exactly where they stand on sustainability content in the curriculum. The holistic picture it provides helps to identify areas of strength and weakness, measure progress over time, spot neglected topics and identify opportunities for issues to link across different Schools and disciplines."
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