Sustainable UCL


Launch of UCL’s new Education for Sustainable Development Network

23 May 2023

The launch of the new UCL Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Network, marks an important milestone in expanding sustainable development teaching, research, and extra-curricular activities across UCL.


Authors: UCL Student Sustainability Ambassadors, Nuzulia Fajriningrum, MSc Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment and Laura Dewhurst, MSc Science Communications

The launch event, held on 4th May 2023, brought together over 60 students and staff, from a wide range of faculties, departments and professional teams at UCL, to discuss how ESD can most effectively be embedded across the university.

The ESD Network was launched by the UCL ESD Steering Group to support academics in embedding ESD into the curriculum and extra-curricular activity. It will support UCL’s commitment: ''every student will have the opportunity to study and be involved in sustainability by 2024'' as set out in the 2019 Sustainability Strategy: Change Possible. It is hoped that it will enable staff and students to share best practise and reduce duplication of work by enabling cross-collaboration on tools and resources to implement change.

UCL Sustainability Strategy

ESD is defined by UNESCO and QAA as “empower[ing] learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society, for present and future generations.” It involves developing students’ competencies and skills through curricular and extra-curricular activities to address the challenges of sustainable development in their lives beyond UCL.

UNESCO Definition of ESD

The ESD Network launch was opened by UCL’s Vice-Provost for Education & Student Experience, Professor Kathleen Armour, and key members of the UCL ESD Steering Group gave speeches, including Jason Clarke, UCL Assistant Sustainability Director, Hannah Biggs, Senior Sustainability Manager, Dr Anne Preston, Associate Professor (Teaching) at UCL East and Dr Irina Lazar, Associate Professor (Teaching) in Engineering and Public Policy. The network brought together a wide range of university departments, with representatives present from UCL’s Institute of Education, Social and Historical Sciences, School of Management, Engineering, and Life and Medical Sciences faculties among many.

Professor Kathleen Armour, UCL Vice-Provost Education and Student Experience, spoke about the importance of the ESD network now more than ever and how vital it was for students to be set up for sustainability in their future careers.

Throughout the network’s inaugural meeting, discussions centred on how the ESD network could most effectively deliver its aim to embed ESD across UCL. Consistently, the ESD network was framed as providing a space for new resources to be created, with best practice and knowledge being shared between departments, for staff to feel supported in the delivery of sustainability teaching.

Department representatives were also encouraged to share their current ESD initiatives and ideas, to promote further conversation and collaboration, strengthening the impact and outcomes of the event. The event was hosted in a hybrid format and from the online participants, more than 20 ideas were shared and discussed through the digital workspace. Some highlights include the Institute of Education’s work to prepare students for the teaching of climate change and sustainability education, as well as the initiatives of the Bartlett School of Environment, Energy, and Resources (BSEER) to link networks of academics, alumni, and students with other Higher Education stakeholders and the public interested in sustainability.

Network members discuss their department’s ESD initiatives, forming collaborations across disciplines.

The ESD launch event has garnered positive feedback from students who took part and UCL MSc student Laura Dewhurst gave the below feedback after the event: 

It was great to attend UCL's ESD network launch, and to have the opportunity to input ideas for its future trajectory. Already, you could see collaborations sparking across wide-ranging university departments, all working towards the common goal of further integrating sustainability into UCL teaching. As a student, such content will be invaluable for building up skills to tackle the world's most pressing challenges, from climate change to the desperate need to reduce inequality."

Looking forward, UCL aims to increase ESD throughout each student’s journey, with increased ESD content embedded into student inductions, course curricula, extra-curricular opportunities, and research practice. It is hoped that many of those attending the network’s inaugural meeting will become ESD leaders within their department.

The four corners of ESD at UCL defined by the UCL ESD Steering Group.

Building on the ESD content already delivered independently across UCL departments, the network will provide a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and capacity building, to promote further ESD across UCL. To achieve UCL’s goal that ‘’every student will have the opportunity to study and be involved in sustainability’’, the newly launched network will undoubtedly prove crucial. 

Want to get involved in ESD?

If you’re interested to join the Education for Sustainable Development Network or have any questions about ESD at UCL, please join the below:

Join the ESD Network

There will be informating sharing and opportunities to take part in events, including lunch and learn sessions for academics to share their current work.

Missed the launch event and want to catch up?

> Recording of the launch event