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UAL joins University of Gloucestershire in ground-breaking project to tackle curriculum greenwashing in Higher Education

Illustrations by UAL student Errin Quinn
  • Written byUAL Communications
  • Published date04 March 2022
Illustrations by UAL student Errin Quinn
Work by Errin Quinn, MA Illustration, Camberwell College of Arts, UAL

University of the Arts London (UAL) and King's College London are joining a national project led by University of Gloucestershire (UoG) to tackle the growing trend among universities for curriculum greenwash.

The 3 institutions will work together with students to drive up standards in sustainability learning at universities, drawing on best practice and its own Education for Sustainability (EfS) assessment framework to develop it further. The aim is to help universities accurately measure the quality of their sustainability education, and help students better understand how well their degree programme will equip them with the knowledge, skills and experience to be leaders in sustainability practise when they join industry.

Nina Stevenson, Head of Education (Sustainability) at UAL's Centre for Sustainable Fashion, said: “Understanding the needs and experiences of students is fundamental in designing and delivering creative education that foregrounds human and planetary health. At UAL, we have committed to embed climate and social justice into every course by 2023, and through this collaborative project we will surface what is happening on the ground in our courses at London College of Fashion."

Through co-learning with University of Gloucestershire and King’s College London, we will challenge Higher Education to deliver high-quality teaching and learning for sustainability across a range of disciplines.

— Nina Stevenson
Student posing next to one of her designs
University of Gloucestershire student, Nancy Harris showing how military clothing can be upcycled to reduce the amount of synthetic fibres in landfill at the University’s Radical Sustainability Masterclass.

With research by SOS-UK, the National Union of Students sustainability charity, indicating that 84% of students expect sustainable development to be actively incorporated into all courses, UoG will be working with students and partners to develop and test a set of principles to assess the quality of EfS integration, and call out the growing potential for ‘curriculum greenwash’.

Funded by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education, through its Collaborative Enhancement Projects scheme, the project ‘Students driving curriculum quality for sustainability’ will have a strong focus on developing graduates who can lead change for sustainability.

It will also push the sector to move sustainability education out of the margins and beyond simply badging course content with ‘single-issue’ UN Global Sustainable Development Goals.

The project will test and refine the principles in different university settings and courses, aiming to close gaps between current learning experiences and what students most value for their development and future lives and careers.

Dr Alex Ryan, Director of Sustainability at UoG, said: “We are excited to be working on this critical issue with our students and partners at University of the Arts London and King’s College London, both known for their sustainability innovations. Our university has been a disruptor in pushing to mainstream transformational course experiences that can help to move the needle for sustainability in society. But our sector needs to do more than just experiment now – we need to grasp what matters most to students and what counts as powerful sustainability education – and to partner with our students to drive quality forward.”