National ESD Policy in Higher Education
The UE4SD inquiry process presented in the UE4SD State of the Art report mapped national policy developments for ESD across the countries of the UE4SD partnership. It found that national policies that address ESD are emerging, but most do not focus directly on HE and its role in advancing ESD. However it did identify:
- 12 HE Acts that make specific reference to ESD (5 in the West, 3 in the North, 3 in the East, 1 in the South)
- 11 countries with national legislation addressing ESD in HE (6 in the East, 2 in the North, 2 in the West, 1 in the South)
- 3 national development plans for HE that recognise ESD (2 in the East, 1 in the North)
European HE policy statements that reference ESD Professional Development
The mapping exercise also explored whether professional development is referenced in national HE policy statements about ESD. Although this is a new area of practice, it found that 9 countries have statements that call for professional development in ESD.
3 countries in the South region:
National Plan for ESD (Cyprus 2006)
White Book Environmental Education (Spain 1999)
3 countries in the East region:
National Sustainable Development Strategy (Serbia, 2007)
National Strategy for Sustainable Development for the Slovak Republic (2001)
Resolution on National Programme of Higher Education (Slovenia 2011)
2 countries in the North region:
Ireland - National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development in Ireland, 2014-2020
UK - Learning for change (Scottish Government, 2010-15)
UK - Sustainable development in higher education (Higher Education Funding Council for England, 2014)
1 country in the West region:
Flemish Strategy for Sustainable Development (2010-2014)
For most of Europe, HE policy frameworks that support ESD professional development are rare and this is an important priority for ESD and sustainable development policy-making. The UK is an exceptional case, where there has been dedicated action on ESD supported through the national HE agencies responsible for teaching and learning, professional development and academic quality assurance. Other national education agencies that have begun to engage with ESD include the Belgian government, which convened initial meetings in 2014 on the inclusion of ESD in its quality assurance priorities and systems.
ESD National Guidance for Educators - UK example
In 2014 the UK Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) released national guidelines on ESD in the curriculum and graduate outcomes, in its Guidance on ESD. The guidance highlights the importance of training university educators and supporting professional development in ESD.
The QAA has included EfS in the UK Quality Code for HE that guides curriculum standards across the HE sector and in all universities (Chapter B3, p8).
QAA also supported the Leading Curriculum Change for Sustainability initiative from 2010-12 that worked with 5 UK universities to develop ESD policy and practice through quality assurance systems. Read more in Publications.