Introduction

April 14, 2006

We are a year into the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-14).

What seemed a remote and worthy sentiment 12 months ago has become a pressing issue for governments, society and universities.

Soaring energy prices are tied to questions about fossil fuel reserves; how - even whether - they can be eked out; and if not, how the developed world will sustain its high living standards while alleviating critical shortages in the developing world and meeting its aspirations.

Climate change effects are demonstrably with us, and at the most basic of levels. Pollution affects every society as landfill sites reach capacity and evidence emerges of the impact on personal health.

No university can ignore these phenomena. At the very least an institution that fails to engage with the issues is in effect throwing money down the drain or watching it go up in not-so-proverbial smoke.

The Government and the funding councils are prodding all institutions to do more. But the picture is at best patchy. This supplement celebrates the winners of the Green Gown Awards 2006. They are in a minority - the issue has yet to break fully out of the ghetto. Long-time campaigners such as Sara Parkin are clear that time is running out for universities to adopt sustainable policies and embed their principles within courses across every discipline.

Companies such as Severn Trent Water are leading the demand for graduate recruits with incontestable sustainable development literacy.

The writer Malcolm Gladwell has popularised the concept of the tipping point - borrowed from the moment in epidemiology when a virus breaks out in a community - to describe a cluster of small changes all happening at once.

It may be that 2006 represents that moment for sustainable development policies and practices in our universities.

Back to sustainability index page

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Lecturer in Primatology UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
Senior Lecturer in Education DURHAM UNIVERSITY
Lecturer in Education DURHAM UNIVERSITY
Lecturer in Earth Sciences DURHAM UNIVERSITY

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (8 September 2016)

Some lecturers will rightly encourage forms of student interaction that are impossible for those covering their faces, Eric Heinze argues

Handwritten essay on table

Universities must pay more attention to the difficulties faced by students, says Daniel Dennehy

University of Oxford students walking on campus

University of Oxford snatches top spot from Caltech in this year’s World University Rankings as Asia’s rise continues

Theresa May entering 10 Downing Street, London

The prospect of new grammar schools on the horizon raises big questions for HE, writes Nick Hillman

Nosey man outside window

Head of UK admissions service Mary Curnock Cook addresses concerns that universities might ‘not hear a word’ from applicants