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Key takeaway results from the 2023 Dissertation Topic Survey

Staff Sustainability Architects
Sustainable Curriculum

A survey was sent to undergraduate and postgraduate students undertaking their dissertation to discover their current awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), their exposure to them through their studies and appetite to respond to them in their research and dissertation projects.  

Our Education Strategy commits to promoting ‘environmental and social sustainability through our portfolio, our actions and student opportunities’. The Sustainable Curriculum principle (one of the seven core principles of the University Climate Plan) seeks amplify and advance opportunities for students to engage with the global challenges the SDGs represent through their programmes of study, research and sustainability projects. Therefore, this survey is instrumental in understanding students' current exposure to the SDGs and motivations for pursuing their own sustainability research. 

The survey was conducted from March to June 2023 and 270 responses were recorded: 150 Undergraduates, 108 Postgraduates and 12 other respondents.  

This annual survey is delivered by the Leeds Sustainable Curriculum project team. Student Sustainability Architect Anna Lister helped organise this year's survey and encouraged engagement across all our faculties and from 77 dissertation modules. 

The results

The results of the survey have shown 20% of respondents being explicitly taught about the UN SDGs, with an additional 35% indicating they had not learnt about the SDGs but had learnt about at least one SDG related topic. 

When asked about their level of awareness of the SDGs, 35% of respondents had not previously heard of the UN SDGs. However, 82% indicated that their dissertation related to at least one SDG when presented with information about these. 

Respondents were also asked about their motivation to explore a sustainability related topic. 15% responded that this was inspired by their course, while 28% responded it was due to their career aspirations and 63% stated it was due to their personal interest in sustainability and climate change. 

The next survey period will be March – June 2024. If you have any questions about the Sustainable Curriculum, have a look at our wesbite or email

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We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity.

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.