The University of Gloucestershire, widely recognised as a leading university in the area of sustainable practice, brought together UN Chiefs, experts and students at an international sustainability conference on Friday and Saturday (January 10 and 11).

The international conference on higher education and sustainable development reviewed progress to improve the contribution of higher education to social and economic priorities in communities. Delegates discussed how universities should promote the green economy and embed social responsibility principles into their strategic and action plans.

The event which attracted over 100 delegates, including experts from 15 different countries, and was held at the university’s Park Campus in Cheltenham. The conference was titled “Leadership in a Changing World: Higher education, sustainability and the new Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).”

Discussion ranged from defining guiding principles of sustainability which needs to feature in degree programmes to the suggestion that graduates should be ‘work ready plus graduates’. Delegates also agreed that social responsibility should feature in position descriptions of Vice Chancellors and University Presidents.

From left to right:

Dr Alexander Leicht (Chief of ESD, UNESCO Paris)
Prof Daniella Tilbury (President, Copernicus Alliance and Director of Sustainability, University of Gloucestershire)
Mahesh Pradham (Chief of Global Universities Partnership for Environment and Sustainability)
Prof Geoff Scott (Professor of Leadership and Provost, University of Western Sydney)

Key note speakers included the University of Gloucestershire’s Director of Sustainability and President of COPERNICUS Alliance UK, Professor Daniella Tilbury, as well as Dr Alexander Leicht (Chief of ESD, UNESCO, France); Mahesh Pradhan (Chief of GUPES, UNEP, Kenya) and Dr Geoff Scott (Sustainable Futures Leadership Academy, Australia).

The second day of the Conference was devoted to student leadership initiatives and the sharing of experiences. This was chaired by the University of Gloucestershire’s Student’s Union.

Dr Geoff Scott, Emeritus Professor of Sustainability at the University of Western Sydney, Australia and Co-Chair of the Sustainable Futures Leadership Academy (SFLA), Australia, said: “The focus of this conference is about how important the role of universities and higher education is in these changing times. It is not only about discussing what can be done to improve a sustainable future for everyone, but more importantly, how to make it happen. Good ideas with no ideas of how to implement them is no good. Change doesn’t just happen, so it is vital to have good leadership in order to lead change through teaching and learning.”

Speaking about what he thought the big issues for the future were, Dr Scott, added: “It is critical that we build leadership capacity across disciplines, that universities help people with new ways forward and that academic institutions engage with their communities.”

Speaking at the conference, the University of Gloucestershire’s Director of Sustainability and President of COPERNICUS Alliance UK, Professor Daniella Tilbury, said: “Our students hold the key to change in our professional and local communities. The University of Gloucestershire is proud of its sustainability credentials and is working very closely with students and the Students Union to extend its work to social enterprise initiatives that benefit both students and the professional and local communities they link with.”

The reflections and proposals from the conference will be presented to the organisers of the United Nations World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) which will convene government from around the world at Nagoya, Japan in November 2014.

Full list of keynote speakers:

Dr Alexander Leicht (UNESCO, France, TBC); Mahesh Pradhan (UNEP, Kenya); Dr Geoff Scott (Sustainable Futures Leadership Academy, Australia); Prof Javier Benayas (ARIUSA and CRUE-CADEP, Spain); Dr Lorna Down (University of West Indies, Jamaica); Jamie Agombar (NUS, UK); Felix Spira (RootAbility, Germany); Dr Zoe Robinson (Keele University, UK); Prof Clemens Mader (COPERNICUS Alliance, Germany); and, Prof Daniella Tilbury (UoG Director of Sustainability and President of COPERNICUS Alliance, UK).

About the University of Gloucestershire

The University of Gloucestershire gained official university status in 2001 but has existed as an educational establishment for nearly 200 years. Our heritage lies in the Mechanics Institutes of the 1830s, with our Francis Close Hall campus founded in 1847 as the Cheltenham Training College.

Today, we have three thriving campuses, Francis Close Hall and The Park in Cheltenham, and Oxstalls in Gloucester, which are occupied by approximately 10,000 students. In 2010, the University invested £5 million in teaching facilities including a new, state-of-the-art media and art and design studios.

The university is celebrated for its consistent and outstanding performance in sustainability as recognised by external assessments such as the Green League and Green Gown Awards in the UK.

The University of Gloucestershire delivers approximately 100 undergraduate course choices including accounting, law, business and management, fine art, TV production, humanities, leisure and tourism, social work and education plus and a diverse range of postgraduate and research degrees, and professional courses.

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Source: University of Gloucestershire