Sustainable UCL


Embedding sustainability into the curriculum

By 2024 every student will be able to learn about sustainability at UCL through their course or extra curriculum. See how we will do this.


The UCL Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Steering Group has developed UCL’s ESD Strategy, it consistes of three working groups to support implementation. This Steering Group is Chaired by Jane Holder, Professor of Environmental Law and members include academic and professional staff, students and Trade Union representatives. This group reports into UCL’s Sustainable Development Goals Board and Sustainability Committee on at least a yearly basis.

See terms of reference here.

Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development

The ESD Strategy was signed off by UCL's ESD Steering Group in April 2022.

Aims and Objectives

In UCL’s Sustainability Strategy: Change Possible 2019-24, the institution committed that every student would have the opportunity to study and be involved in sustainability by 2024. To fulfil this commitment, the following objectives must be fulfilled:

  • Clarify the commitment, by defining what UCL means by ‘every student having the opportunity to study and be involved in sustainability,’ and define Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at UCL.
  • Establish a baseline and monitoring protocol to measure progress against the commitment. This will also help to identify gaps within the curriculum
  • Plug gaps in sustainable education provisions through working with faculties and departments to create sustainability programmes and/or a sustainability-wide module.
  • Support academics to embed sustainability into the curriculum by creating toolkits, case studies, events, training and conferences.
  • Strengthen the sustainability content of UCL’s co-curricular activities, through sign-posting existing activities better, and developing existing programmes.
Current ESD activity at UCL

Table 1 (page 3) summarises some of the activities currently in place to enhance sustainability within the curriculum. It is not a comprehensive list and there will be many other examples across UCL that are not referenced. It does not include specific examples of:

  • Research informing ESD practice; or
  • ESD within UCL’s individual 6,000+ taught modules, which were mapped against the SDGs for the first time in 2021–22.
CurricularDepartmental SupportSupporting departments to embed
sustainability into their taught curriculum e.g., Medical School has new Climate Change & Health module, Slade has increased emphasis on sustainability of materials within their programmes.
Sustainable UCL
 Module MappingMeasuring the quantity of ESD in the taught curricular, possibly by classifying modules against SDGs.UCL SDGs
 AwardsAdded a sustainability category in the UCL Choice Awards and the UCL Education Awards which feed into the UCL Sustainability Awards to incentivise and reward academic staff to embed sustainability into the curriculum.Sustainable UCL
Co-curricularSustainability InductionOptional training for students, and
mandatory training for all staff (which
encourages ESD teaching).
Sustainable UCL
 Introductory ProgrammeGreen UCL discovery module on UCL’s
Introductory Programme enable students to critically analyse different sustainability topics.
Sustainable UCL
 The London Student
Sustainability Conference
UCL joint hosted a conference enabling
London students to showcase their research relating to the SDGs, providing networking opportunities, enhancing presentation skills
and sustainability literacy.
Sustainable UCL
 Sustainability CouncilThe Student Sustainability council gives students an opportunity to have a say in UCL’s sustainability vision and provides students with knowledge on how large organisations deal with complex sustainability challenges.Sustainable UCL
 Global Citizenship ProgrammeBrings together students from across UCL to explore the biggest global challenges – currently on hold.Vice-Provost
Education &
 Laidlaw Research and
Leadership Programme
25 UCL Laidlaw Scholars undertake
leadership training, a research project and the Leadership in Action project.
Education &
 Student clubs and societies19,500 students are members of clubs and societies, many of which are addressing one or more of the SDGs.Students’
Union UCL
 Volunteering Service2,000+ students are members of student-led volunteering projects or undertaking external volunteer placements that are addressing one or more of the SDGs.Students’
Union UCL
100+ students volunteer as Sustainability Ambassadors on departmental, universitywide and community sustainability projects.Sustainable UCL
 Change MakersStudents and staff working in partnership on projects that improve the learning and wider student experience at UCL.UCL Arena
 Living LabThe UCL Living Lab is the opportunity for students and staff to solve UCL’s
sustainability challenges through research, teaching, dissertations, and projects.
 Millennium Fellowship
Students undertake a project that advances an SDG. 35 UCL students participated in the scheme in 2021.External


Programme of works

Table 2 identifies suggested activities for achieving the above objectives, including a proposed start date and timeframe for undertaking them. Graphic 2 shows this visually and gives greater detail. There are three working groups who are carrying out this programme.

Graphic 1: Proposed programme of work summary and timeline

Decorative graphic for following text

Table 2: Proposed programme of work

 ActivitySummaryStart workFinish target
Clarify the commitmentResponse to the UCL Strategic Plan
Education Paper (to form working group,
see 3.0)
Co-author a paper in response to UCL’s Strategy Paper on Education.Term 2 (2021-22) 1st WG meetingTerm 2 (2021-22) 1st WG meeting
 Defining ESD (to form working group, see 3.0)UCL has committed to every student having ‘the opportunity to learn and be involved in sustainability.’ This is an ambiguous term; we need definition. UCL also needs to agree a (its) definition of ESD.Term 3 (2021-22)
2nd WG meeting
Term 1 (2022-23)
Finalise at 3rd WG meeting
Establish a baseline and monitoring protocolMeasurementRefine a methodology for measuring ESD activity.Term 1 (2022-23)
3rd WG meeting
Term 2 (2022-23)
4th WG meeting
Identify opportunities to increase sustainable education provisionIdentify best- ractice examples and gaps in the curriculum.Attend faculty-wide meetings to discuss ESD. Find out ESD activity, share the
ESD definition, methodology and
toolkit. Request a faculty Sustainability Lead, to co-ordinate work to identify potential modules or programmes to create.
Term 1 (2022-23)
3rd WG meeting
Term 2 (2022-23)
4th WG meeting
  Target undergraduate courses with the
highest number of students, meet with
course leaders and identify
opportunities for embedding ESD.
Term 2 (2022-23)
4th WG meeting
Term 3 (2022-23)
5th WG meeting
 UCL-wide module on sustainabilityExplore the potential for an optional UCL - wide module on sustainable development.Term 1 2022-23)2 years
Support academics to embed sustainability into the curriculumESD ToolkitReview the ESD webpage and toolkit
currently in creation for UCL’s Teaching
and Learning portal. This toolkit will
help academics embed sustainability
into their teaching.
Term 3 (2021-22)
2nd WG meeting
3 months
 Case studies of
existing good ESD
Identify case studies to be highlighted
on UCL’s Teaching and Learning Portal
and/or UCL SDGs Initiative website.
Term 1 (2022-23)
3rd WG meeting
2 years
 Support surveySurvey academics to find out what
support they need and update ESD
toolkit as necessary.
Term 2 (2022-23)
4th WG meeting
3 months
 Knowledge sharingSet up a mechanism for a wider group
of academics to share ESD best
practice such as a Communities of
Practice or an ESD Conference.
Term 2 (2022-23)
4th WG meeting
Term 3 (2022-23)
5th WG meeting
 Sustainability LeadsDevelop a faculty Sustainability Lead
role within each faculty to coordinate the faculties’ work on ESD and support
Term 3 (2022-23)
5th WG meeting
Term 1 (2023-4)
 Event programmeProgramme of (faculty based) events to
highlight ESD good practice.
Term 3 (2022-23)
5th WG meeting
2 years
UCL’s 15-minute compulsory staff training on sustainability introduces them to the policies at UCL and the actions they can take to become sustainable colleagues.
A secondary induction on ESD
sustainability could be developed to
provide academics with support in implementing ESD.IOE are creating a future learn course, so potentially it could be developed from this.
Term 3 (2022-23)Term 1 (2023-24)
Strengthening the sustainability content of UCL’s Co-curricular activitiesStudent
Make the existing Induction mandatory,
currently only 400 students complete it
per year.
Term 3 (2021-22)Term 1 (2022-23)
 Co-curriculum ‘offer’Input into UCL’s planned co-curricular
‘offer’, to ensure sustainability content.
Term 1 (2022-23)2 years
This year UCL jointly hosted an SDG Conference for students to highlight student research during UCL’s 28 Days of Sustainability campaign. UCL could host its own SDG Conference or continue running it with other London universities.Term 2 (2022-23)1 year