The University Educators for Sustainable Development project had one core idea – to create and empower a network of expertise and collaboration in Education for Sustainable Development across Europe. Over 3 years, it has achieved these aims through a range of activities and exchanges focused on the professional development of educators across a wide range of national and institutional settings.
Key outcomes from the UE4SD project include:
- Development of the network of 53 European partners, through annual meetings, online communications and active contributions to the project processes and results.
- Inquiry processes that informed a series of mapping reports that have built a shared picture of current expertise and recent experiments in ESD professional development across Europe.
- Sharing of experiences and reflection on selected projects and initiatives, to produce the Leading Practice Publication of significant examples of ESD professional development.
- Initiation and pilot programme of the UE4SD Academy, offering a model and set of real experiences with university teams developing their ESD competence.
- Engagement of a range of VIP stakeholders with the issues of ESD professional development, including policy-makers, key agencies and leaders in the higher education sector.
- Synthesis of the findings and insights of the project, as well as notable examples of practice and the UE4SD Academy products, into this online resource platform.
The UE4SD project has also changed thinking and practice in this area, opening new dialogues and creating a shared point of focus for dialogue and reflection on ESD. It has achieved:
- Shifts in understanding of ESD and its relationship to professional development for partners
- Engagement of colleagues with this educational priority at institutions across Europe
- Raising the level of discussion on professional development among ESD practitioners
- Creation of new tools and adaptable examples that can inform future innovations in practice
- Sharing of localized projects that reflect different circumstances for ESD practice
These new steps have been taken at an exciting point in time for ESD. The UN Decade in Education for Sustainable Development concluded in 2015 during the project lifespan and has now been replaced by a new wave of international activity. The UNESCO Global Action Programme has been established, creating momentum and new priorities for achieving change in the education and skills arena. Within Europe there is fresh energy, especially through UNECE, to continue to progressively integrate ESD into education systems and to create guidance and tools for this.
Student interest has gathered pace, as reflected in national surveys and the growth of international student networks and forums for sustainability. Professional practice linked to sustainability continues to feature in dialogues about workforce development, higher level skills, graduate jobs markets and professional responsibilities in various sectors and occupations.
The next steps for the UE4SD project network are:
- Sharing results – dissemination and communication of the outputs and insights of the project, through its publications and at a range of events and forums
- Applying learning – taking the knowledge and experiences into the work roles of partners and using opportunities to put this into practice to advance ESD
- Ongoing collaboration – agreeing on ways to continue to connect and guide one another, through peer-to-peer exchanges and new initiatives forged through UE4SD
- Influencing practice – using the resources and findings of the project to initiate changes in policy and thinking about professional development across the sector
For all partners of the UE4SD project, the experience has encouraged us to recognise and reflect on our own approaches to pedagogical practice and our understanding of how professional development happens. The project has offered many opportunities to think through how we might work for change in our education systems and engage our colleagues, students and professional partners with ESD.