A Critical Evaluation of the Representation of the QAA and HEA Guidance on ESD in Public Web Environments of UK Higher Education Institutions

  • Evelien S. Fiselier
  • James W. S. Longhurst
Part of the World Sustainability Series book series (WSUSE)


In June 2014 the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) published their education for sustainable development guidance for higher education. The guidance is a tool for supporting educators in embedding or including knowledge, understanding and awareness of sustainable development across the curriculum by identifying graduate learning outcomes and outlining approaches to teaching, learning and assessment. The purpose of the guidance is to help higher education institutions in training sustainability literate graduates who will contribute to an environmentally and ethically responsible society through the application of their skills, knowledge and experience. The guidance is now some 30 months old, which leads us to pose the question: to what extent has the UK higher education sector adopted and implemented the guidance in its curricula? A systematic web-based analysis has been performed of 139 higher education institutions’ websites to identify the use of the guidance in the public web environments of UK higher education, especially regarding the design, delivery and review of curricula. To what extent do UK universities reference the role of ESD or the guidance in the specification of the graduate learning outcomes and the approaches to teaching, learning and assessment? In analysing the web environments for guidance related content we have also identified the presence of general information relating to estates sustainability and to general ESD concepts. In presenting the results a comparison is made between institutions, which contributed to the guidance and the rest of the sector. The analysis shows that 120 institutions provide information about estate sustainability, 82 general information on ESD, but only 16 institutions make public statements about their use of the QAA and HEA guidance for ESD. As such, this study provides the first comprehensive assessment of the presence of sustainability, and specifically ESD and the QAA and HEA guidance, in the online platforms of universities and colleges. This paper will share the results of the study with the UK higher education sector and in so doing hopes to encourage HEIs to engage with ESD by integrating it in their curricula.


Education for sustainable development Higher education QAA and HEA guidance Web-based analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Environment and TechnologyUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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