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.

Sustainability in the Curriculum: LUBS Commercial and Professional Skills Module Update

This year, Masters students taking the Commercial and Professional Skills module at Leeds University Business School were given the opportunity to work with the Sustainability Service as part of a consultancy project!

Posing as internal consultants, student groups were tasked to review the student and staff awareness of sustainability initiatives across the University and develop recommendations that could improve people’s knowledge of the Sustainability Strategy and what they can get involved in.

After initial meetings with members of the Sustainability team, groups went away and collected data using a questionnaire to gain a better understanding of people’s sustainability knowledge and activities that are already taking place. They also reviewed specific areas of engagement by the University, using their results to highlight gaps for improvement and make recommendations.

The student’s proposals ranged from utilising social media trends and behaviours, to increasing visibility on campus, and tailoring campaigns for specific audiences.

This is just one of the ways we are integrating sustainability into student learning as part of our commitment to giving all students the opportunity to study and be involved in sustainability.

Student Consultancy

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.

Scott’s Teach First Experience with Sustainability and Educational Engagement

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“Hi, my name is Scott and I’ve just finished a summer project for the Sustainability and Educational Engagement teams at the University of Leeds. (I’ve also never done a blog post before, so this could be “interesting”!) I was – until 3 weeks ago – a full-time teacher, and I was asked to look at the provision of University resources aimed at schoolchildren with the aim being to have students engage more with sustainability and improve sustainability literacy. I was keen to help improve outreach at Leeds, and to get to do so with sustainability being at the forefront (a topic that I’m very passionate about) seemed too perfect an opportunity to not apply for.

I spent my first couple of days really trying to nail down what it was that people expected of me, meeting with seemingly half the university staff on campus, and gathering data to use at a later date! It was agreed that I’d design “two or three” lessons for teachers to download, or to be delivered by University staff in workshops, as well as looking at where Educational Engagement and Sustainability overlapped, suggesting how best to market the new resources, and writing a report that brought all of that together. In just three weeks! I hope that the 29(!) lessons I’ve created, with associated resources (including a board game), will be enjoyed by students across the UK and beyond and help to spread the word of what sustainability is and how it’s interwoven into society.

My time here has been brief but very enjoyable. The team here were all very welcoming (and 25p coffee helped!) and were very happy to chat about the project (and other things), and now I’ve reached the end, I’m sad that I won’t get to engage with people who clearly have a love for the vision of Sustainability, and won’t get to learn about how sustainability isn’t just about the colour green, saving the trees, or the birds and the bees!

To conclude, I’d like to thank Louise and Claire for the opportunity, Josh and Amanda for always being friendly faces, Mike for showing me the work on biodiversity on campus, Kelly for sorting it all out and telling me about her work on food on campus, Dom and Eric for trialling lessons and giving me feedback, Pre and John for discussing outreach, Jenny and Steven for telling me about their work with transport, James for telling me about water conservation, Tilly for educating me about Snapchat(!), and Gina for telling me about the work already done aimed at disadvantaged students (who are close to my heart).

Enjoy what’s left of summer!”