IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Student recommendations for enhancing climate and sustainability education in universities

22 December 2023

Two UCL students spent last summer working with IOE’s Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Education (CCCSE) to gather student insights on climate and sustainability practice at UCL and inform strategies that university policymakers should take.

Hand holding up a glowing light bulb surrounded by sustainability icons

Universities have a responsibility – and huge capacity - to take a lead in responding to the climate crisis, through teaching, campus practices, and academic research. 

To investigate how universities can achieve greater climate impact, Batool Wajiha Zaidi (Arts and Sciences BASc) and Kavan Shah (Economics and Statistics BSc) conducted participatory research to capture the insights of fellow undergraduate students at UCL, supported by the Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Education.  

They collaborated with the research centre as part of the Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme, which provides UCL undergraduate students with the opportunity to develop research leadership skills while investigating ways to tackle the global challenges of our time. 

Batool and Kavan’s research insights were used to form recommendations on how to create a more sustainable culture within universities and presented these in a policy briefing published by the Laidlaw Scholars Network. 

The students brought attention to the university student population's vested interest in their university’s policies and motivation to create positive change. Importantly, they are also well-placed to help universities reach their climate action potential on campuses, in the local communities they operate in, and through their wider influence in society. 

The policy briefing highlights the actions they believe university leaders and senior management teams should implement, targeting three key areas of the university: curriculum, campus, and community. 

To help students make informed decisions in their lives, communities and future careers participants in the workshop expressed an appetite for a stronger focus on climate and sustainability education within university curricula framed in a constructive, hopeful way, in contrast to alarming climate narratives often seen in the media. 

Modelling more sustainable practices within universities is important for reinforcing the knowledge taught about sustainability and creating a culture of climate action. Students also gave recommendations for how to make sure climate and sustainability education involves everyone at the university, and how universities can better support inclusive and accessible learning. This extended to thinking of ways to foster multidisciplinary student collaboration on solutions with and for the wider communities, businesses and industries they connect with. 

Their recommendations will inform ongoing collaboration and dialogue with CCCSE, the UCL Student’s Union and the Sustainability Committee, as well as the development of new and ongoing education delivery within the IOE faculty. 

View the policy briefing

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