Keywords: sustainable development, higher education, learning response, capabilities, curriculum design, staged learning, change, institutional change, university curricula, sustainability
Education for sustainability: the role of capabilities in guiding university curricula
While pressing sustainability issues climb international and national agendas, most Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have yet to respond in a systematic and coherent way in terms of embedding sustainability concepts, values and skills into the student learning experience. The paper reviews some schemas and views in the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) debate regarding what constitutes 'capability' in this area, and finds an emerging pattern of broad consensus. Whilst some see sustainability as implying a major challenge for the purposes and nature of university education as a whole, it is still necessary to indicate curriculum ideas that any HEI can begin to implement, ideally as a precursor to deeper change. Between the undesirable extremes of curriculum prescription and emergence, the authors suggest some indicative schemas that might help academics design curricula for ESD. Further, a model of staged learning and change linking institutional change with deepening student experience is suggested, based on current work at RMIT and the University of Plymouth.