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New Education for Sustainable Development guides for HE sector

29 Feb 2024 | Georgina Gough Advance HE has published new guides on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as part of a Collaborative Development Fund project. Project lead, and Professor of ESD at UWE Bristol, Georgina Gough, shares her reflections on opportunities and challenges for ESD in higher education.

The new set of ESD practice guides published by Advance HE as part of a Collaborative Development Fund project are intended to offer examples of activity already being undertaken in the UK higher and further education sectors to embed ESD into teaching, learning and assessment. These new guides complement guides published in 2021 with the intention to add variety to the guides already available. 

A new call 

The process for developing the call for submission involved a review of the existing guides to identify gaps in provision. The rubric for reviewing the existing suite of guides was centred on the Advance HE ESD Guidance (2021). Other key points of reference included Subject Benchmark Statements, the UNESCO ESD for 2030 priority action areas, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the criteria of SOS-UK’s Responsible Futures accreditation.

Responses to the call for new guides revealed that Living Lab type practice of ESD is relatively common in UK HE institutions. Similarly, extracurricular opportunities are often developed to provide students with the chance to engage with sustainable development. 

What appear to be less common in ESD practice in the UK are: 

  • team-based/collaborative approaches to delivery of ESD-informed teaching (including researcher/lecturer and technician/lecturer as well as multi-lecturer approaches); 
  • multi-disciplinary, assessed learning opportunities; 
  • assessment tasks and criteria linked to ESD competences; 
  • quality assurance and enhancement explicitly driven by ESD principles; 
  • professional development for staff knowledge, competencies and ability; 
  • participation of staff involved in curriculum design and course management; 
  • interpretation of professional body requirements to promote ESD; 
  • opportunities for the sharing of ESD ideas, knowledge exchange and experiences across the institution; and, 
  • promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion (and health and wellbeing) as part of the ESD agenda. 


Effective ESD requires commitment and action from everyone. There is significant opportunity for more engagement by the research community, professional service staff, student representatives and external stakeholders such as employers, the public sector and communities in designing, delivering and demanding ESD. 

The new guides have focus on enabling student achievement/student engagement and on learning and teaching delivery. However, there is also reference to course design and development, assessment of/for students, collaboration and work-based learning. 


The guide template is designed to enable others to follow the example of practice described. In each guide, readers will generally find: 

  • intended outcomes of the practice;  
  • details of required participants and the role of specific participants;  
  • an outline of activity/ project/ practice;  
  • instructions on the core tasks for intended participants with suggested/likely timeframes; 
  • planning, preparation and evaluation tasks; 
  • suggestions for assessment or evaluation of the success of this activity in meeting its intended outcomes; 
  • useful open source resources related to the practice; and, 
  • an example of the practice as applied by the author(s). 

Opportunities for more 

This review highlighted an opportunity for more examples of practice relating to explicit examples of relevant knowledge, skills and competency all being included in learning outcomes (LOs), teaching activities and assessment (in any discipline/ multidisciplinary contexts) and examples of collaborative learning, enquiry-based learning, play-based or playful learning, learning through storytelling and problem-based learning (PBL) across disciplinary contexts. There is also a need to develop work within the sector on student assessment and on monitoring and evaluation of ESD outcomes. 

It is hoped that these guides will enable members of further and higher education institutions to continue to shape ESD practice, to support others who are keen to embrace ESD and to share their own examples of practice to maximise the value of their work.

Advance HE members can access the first five guides here. The remaining 10 guides will be added to this page in due course. 

Sustainability Symposium 2024: From embedding to embodying: Strategies, policies and practices to advance sustainable citizenship

21 March, Virtual

This symposium with consider how we embed Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into our Teaching and Learning practices, so that students become sustainable citizens. Find out more and book your place.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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