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Towards a framework for university-wide postgraduate programmes in sustainability

Grierson, D. and Hyland, Claire (2010) Towards a framework for university-wide postgraduate programmes in sustainability. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences.

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Abstract

The role of Higher Education Institutions in addressing social, environmental, and economic challenges and opportunities in today's world is immense, complex, and vital (GUNI, 2008). Traditionally responses to sustainable development (SD) have been concentrated within specific subjects, however there has been a gradual penetration of sustainability issues into a wide spectrum of disciplines (HEA, February 2009. The definition and priorities of SD are complex and multi-layered and the challenges presented, being inherently holistic, require equal responses from all disciplines. This requires the development of a framework for University-wide, cross disciplinary teaching. The University of Strathclyde has been ranked first in the Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Observatory Report 2008. Building on this success, work is underway to develop a university-wide, interdisciplinary Strathclyde Masters programme in Sustainability (SMS, aimed at articulating a framework for integrating flagship postgraduate courses & classes, sustainability literacy & skills training workshops. This paper summarises the theories of sustainability and its inherent interdisciplinary nature by examining current thinking in ESD. This has highlighted the need to review the current curriculum, identifying current interdisciplinary provision aligned with ESD, and implement a multistakeholder consultation process. The paper describes how these theories might be put into practice, detailing the conclusions drawn from the initial consultation process involving external organisations, students, academic staff and the university's professional services. In addition, a model 'Sustainability Map' is presented offering an overview of postgraduate provision of ESD within the institution as a whole, alongside details of the courses offered and contributing departments. The outcome of the multistakeholder consultation process, in conjunction with the 'Sustainability Map', will help inform future consultation focusing on structural refinement and the academic content of the interdisciplinary programme.