A Sustainable Leeds Curriculum

Building the knowledge and capacity through our student education programme is fundamental to our teaching strategy at Leeds, supporting this sustainable futures and responsibility is core to our Leeds Curriculum which is overseen by our Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Tom Ward, who also supports the University’s Annual Sustainability Conference.

In addition to the variety of sustainability degree programmes which are run here at the University of Leeds, sustainability is integrated into the wider curriculum through a number of different methods.

The Leeds Curriculum elective programme, Creating Sustainable Futures, allows students from a wide range of disciplines to complete sustainability modules, throughout their time at Leeds.  For more information see leedsforlife.leeds.ac.uk/Broadening/Theme/3.

Sustainability is also integrated into existing School modules, two examples of this are, Leeds University Business School Commercial and Professional Skills module and the School of Medicine RESS Special Studies Project Module.

Facilitating critical thought and creating new innovation is key to creating social societies, therefore supporting student dissertations and research projects is vital to our approach.  Each year we hold cross University dissertation workshops,  directly support dissertation projects in the Sustainability Service, Estates Services and Commercial and Campus Support Services as well as actively encourage student dissertation ideas through our Living Lab Programme.

We work with colleagues across the University to develop teaching material and share experience of integrating sustainability into the curriculum, if you would like support in this area please contact Kelly Forster.

We celebrate and showcase the amazing work our students have completed through modules and their research at our Student Conference on Sustainable Futures. This conference promotes the sharing of ideas between students and staff and helps promote best practice in research and teaching.

We report our progress throughout the year to the University Executive Group via the Sustainability Steering Group, Student Education Board, and in our Annual Sustainability Report. Through this process, we assess our achievements and agree on future plans to ensure that we stay on track on our commitment to embed sustainability across the curriculum.

Creating Sustainable Futures Module – Key Findings 2017

The award-winning Creating Sustainable Futures (CSF) Discovery Theme is a collection of optional curricular modules that students can take alongside their degree subject to broaden their knowledge of the social, economic, environmental and cultural aspects of sustainability.

Each year, students taking the ‘Introduction to Creating Sustainable Futures’ module apply what they have been learning to real world use, collecting sustainability data from across campus as part of their practical group work assessment.

Back in October and March, 57 students undertook a ‘travel’, ‘waste’, ‘energy’, ‘Fairtrade’ or ‘community’ themed project over the course of a week. From assessing the University’s bicycle storage capacities and route accessibility, to gaining a better understanding of people’s perceptions of the University’s positive and negative impacts on society, teams collected data from all corners of campus, capturing a snapshot review of sustainability at Leeds.

The data collected is fed back to the University Sustainability team to help create a timeline of recordings and supplement other audits that take place throughout the year. Student’s data collections not only provide hands-on experience of sustainability in practice, allowing them to put their understanding of issues into context, but also present the University with extremely useful information on current sustainability trends.
Some key findings from semester two’s groups included;

  • Of the 269 empty teaching and communal spaces that were assessed as part of the Energy Project, 47% of them had their lights switched on when not in use.
  • 2/3 of the 75 people surveyed as part of the Fairtrade project were unaware that the University of Leeds is a Fairtrade institution, but half were recorded as understanding the importance of supporting Fairtrade.
  • For the Waste project, 86 recycle bin opportunities and their locations were recorded across the 8 buildings that were audited across campus.
  • 89% of respondents to the Community project questionnaire agreed that Leeds’ international research contribution has a significant positive impact on society.

This module is just one of the ways we are helping deliver our Sustainability Strategy commitments of integrating sustainability into student learning. We intend to further increase the take-up of the Creating Sustainable Futures modules by students from all disciplines, helping them to understand the fundamentals of sustainability and how it applies to their future careers.