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Sustainable learning, teaching and research

Embedding social and environmental sustainability into the curriculum.

UAL will make sustainability (also known as Education for Sustainable Development) a required part of the student learning experience, through the introduction of relevant learning outcomes across courses, starting in this academic year.

The UAL Climate Emergency commitment to make ‘sustainability a required part of the student learning experience’ will be addressed by A Deans sustainability curriculum project entitled ‘Making Sustainability a Required Part of the Student Learning Experience’ (PDF 38KB). The project is endorsed by the University Executive Board and led by 4 UAL Deans, Dr Nicky Ryan (LCC), Dr Jessica Bugg (LCF), Simon Maidment (Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon) and Allan Atlee (CSM). The underlying premise of the project is that sustainability is integral to the culture of UAL; that it is relational and not separate from other agendas and should be embedded throughout the curriculum rather than set apart as a discrete unit.

The embedding of social and environmental sustainability will be achieved as follows:

  • A common set of UAL principles which address the climate and ecological emergency will be developed with cross-college consultation.
  • An audit of course handbooks will identify courses requiring immediate support to make sustainability explicit within their learning strategies.
  • Courses identified through audit will be supported to undertake modifications as required.
  • Evaluation of all courses against UAL sustainability principles will be an iterative and ongoing process and tracked through the ISO14001 management system for learning, teaching and research.

The project aim is that principles that address the climate and ecological emergency will be fully embedded in the curriculum of all courses through learning strategies by September 2021.

Frameworks for sustainable learning, teaching, and research

The UAL Strategy 2015-22 demonstrates UAL's commitment to sustainability. For example, two of the four strategic areas are support sustainable learning, teaching, and research. The first is to deliver transformational education, ensuring that our students can reach their full potential. The second, world leading research and enterprise, is to create and apply knowledge that develops our disciplines.

The importance of sustainability in  our learning, teaching and research is also captured in the UAL Research Strategy 2015-2022 (PDF 170KB) which provides a framework to build a more sustainable future through education and creative practice.

It considers:

  • Environmental change.
  • Communication.
  • Designing for new business models.
  • Social innovations.
  • Sustainable living.

This Strategy equips everyone with a future-facing outlook and provides an understanding of how research fits into wider society. This includes sustainable living and lifelong health and wellbeing.

The Centre for Sustainable Fashion continues to support the development and integration of sustainability in the curriculum across all courses and levels at the London College of Fashion. The Education for Sustainability Transformation Strategy (PDF 253KB) and the Education for Sustainability Transformation at LCF Interim Report (PDF 10MB) displays the spectrum of vital ways in which LCF is critically considering and connecting fashion’s artistic, social, cultural and business practices in an ecological context. It is cross referenced with academic frameworks such as PRIME and reported to ADQA. LCF have also embedded social responsibility, diversity and sustainability into the curriculum in their undergraduate courses through the LCF Better Lives programme.

Our Environmental Management System for Sustainable Learning, Teaching, and Research is ISO 14001 accredited. The associated Guidance Document is available here (PDF 2.8MB). This measures progress and sets targets in relation to ESD, there are 12 KPIs that determine progress made in Sustainable Learning Teaching and Research are:

  • The number of events that promote and foster sustainable research
  • The number of student projects centred in sustainability (See ISO14001 Accreditation: Number of student projects themed around Sustainability in LCC Design School (PDF 116KB)
  • The amount of funding for sustainability research grants obtained.
  • Total waste mass (kg) / full time student (or equivalent)
  • Total hazardous waste mass (kg) / full time student (or equivalent)
  • Engagement with SU arts 'Sustainability Zine' and college staff newsletters
  • Business related travel offset by Skype/Teams
  • Carbon emissions from academic procurement
  • Tonnage of waste disposed by skips per year
  • Number of end-of-year shows including 'deconstruction plans'
  • Number of disposals issued at each site/per year

We've worked to increase the levels of student oversight of this new learning, teaching and research EMS. The Arts SU Campaigns Officer plays a key role in not only helping students understand the terminology and the benefits of an EMS,  but also as a critical friend to the university, independently checking that we're doing what we say we're doing through internal site audits in accordance with the UAL Risks and Opportunities Register - Learning, Teaching, and Research (XLS336KB) - and this is something that will continue.

We've also been able to make good progress on this thanks to the involvement of one of our Sustainability Interns, who has been conducting independent site audits.

All of this information gathered is independently verified by an external and accredited ISO auditor every year.

Staff networking, training, and support

Staff network and share best practice. For example, in January 2020 all course teams in the Design School at LCC participated in a workshop to embed sustainability into the curriculum. Staff also discuss ESD at our Sustainability Working Group and in the Climate Assemblies.

The Responsible Design Framework (PDF 79KB) recognises the need for design education to respond to the eco-social challenges of our time and to equip Design School students, academics and technical staff with the skills and values to become responsible creative citizens.

The Exchange provides professional development and funding to support sustainability and sustainability literacy. This Curriculum Development Funding enables colleagues to test new ideas and develop curricula.

Staff members can complete the Learning for Sustainability unit. They will reflect on sustainability issues in their area of academic practice. Findings are delivered to a wide University audience.

In the coming months UAL will roll out a Carbon Literacy Training programme for all staff.

Read more information on sustainability and course design.

The policy was first published in 2013 and is now updated each year. Its targets reflect the University's progress, for example, achieving ISO 50001 accreditation.

Please see all our policies and strategies.

Examples of research and innovation at UAL

  • Centre for Sustainable Fashion provides leadership and research on sustainable fashion. This includes collaborations, before the Paris climate talks, with the COPtimist project and Dress for Our Time.
  • The Textile Futures Research Centre investigates sustainable and ethical innovations in textiles.
  • Centre for Circular Design focuses on using practice research approaches to originate, steer and support circular technologies, economies and communities around the globe.
  • UAL Social Design uses research insights to change how designers and organisations design. It connects UAL staff and students with external partners who are working in social and sustainable design. Our mission is to make a positive social and environmental difference.
  • Design Against Crime investigates how to use art and design to make safe and more sustainable urban environments.
  • Industry Projects creates partnerships between companies and LCF students. Projects often involve sustainability such as the Nike Sustainable Materials Project. 
  • We aim to involve students in sustainability operations at UAL where possible. Students delivered ideas for the new accommodation block to contractors and to the Estates team. The students were from the Spatial Practices Programme.
  • Through many of our courses and their assessments students contribute to improving sustainability. In MA BiodesignMA Fashion Futures, MA Material Futures and MA Architecture students often build sustainability into their projects. An example is using the natural dyes from the Mare St garden or creating clothes from flax grown at LCF sites.

Equal access to Higher Education - Scholarship and maintenance costs

UAL is committed to widening participation to higher education (HE) and supporting students as they progress to the next stage in their creative education, these provide specific eligibility criteria for refugees, asylum seekers or those granted humanitarian protection.

  • UAL Travel Bursary - Each UAL Travel Bursary offers to cover the costs of mainline train and/or airline travel within the UK for applicants meeting eligibility criteria to attend UAL applicant and/or interview days.
  • UAL International Postgraduate Scholarship -  Up to 165 UAL International Postgraduate scholarships are available. A scholarship provides a £5,000 tuition fee waiver for a full-time taught master’s course at one of UAL’s 6 Colleges starting in the academic year of 2020/21.
  • UAL International Postgraduate £30,000 Scholarship and ISH accommodation award - Up to four scholarships are available to applicants meeting eligibility criteria. A scholarship provides a £30,000 award to cover tuition fee charges and contribute towards living costs. Scholarship recipients will also be offered International Students House (ISH) accommodation for the duration of their study.
  • The Refugee Journalism Project - Partnership between London College of Communication (LCC), The Refugee Council, The Guardian Foundation, and Google News Initiative supporting refugee and exiled journalists to re-start their careers in the UK.  This project helps to redress negative political and media-driven stereotypes by presenting refugees as displaced professionals with valuable insights and skills to offer society.
  • UAL’s Development team have secured charitable funding so that this project can continue and develop, providing training and work opportunities for refugees in the UK.

More to explore

Centre for Sustainable Fashion

Our work explores vital elements of Better Lives London College of Fashion’s commitment to using fashion to drive change towards a sustainable future.

Centre for Circular Design

The Centre for Circular Design strives towards a circular future where textiles, materials and ‘things’ are designed and utilised in radical new ways.

Textile Futures Research Community

The Textile Futures Research Community's practice-based academic researchers explore how materials and textiles can enable more inheritable futures.