During the times of lockdown and quarantines, my curiosity and free time brought me to attend SOS-UK’s webinar on decolonizing the curriculum. Among talks from representatives at different universities and students’ unions was the President of the UWE student union. An apparent game-changer role that they had implemented at their university was called “Sustainability Department Champions”. Thanks to their supportive conversations with us, I’m proud to announce that we will be having 12 Sustainability Champions at the University of Bristol – and they’re getting paid!
What will their main responsibilities be?
The Sustainability Champion will act on their respective Schools at University. This role will allow them to bring sustainability to the core of the faculties’ actions in their own way, though it is assumed to be more focused on education. They will act as intermediates between the Schools, the SU, and the University in sustainability-related issues.
Embedding Sustainable Development in the curriculum
Sustainable Development is not only crucial but also complex and can be subjective. In order to deliver and implement such significant structural changes in our education, these students will proactively support – and, possibly, add a bit of pressure on – staff to follow our Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) strategy in their respective faculties and departments.
It is highly important for the student voice to be heard in this process. Firstly, academics do not necessarily have to appreciate or recognize every topic of interest for students. For example, two Spanish students told me that they really miss the sense of purpose and lack critical thinking throughout the two years of their degree. Sustainable Development can vary from one unit to another, and feedback is definitely essential.
Secondly, they can collect student-to-student feedback to shape their own curriculum and provide fresh ideas to subject-relevant content.
Climate Action Plans
Climate action is a priority at our university. We have pledged to be net ? zero emissions by 2030, and shortly after declaring the climate emergency, Schools were asked to submit their Climate Action Plans (CAPs). Even though some tangible progress has been made, COVID-19 has significantly delayed the efforts to deliver these strategies, with only 40% of Schools and Divisions implementing them.
Working collaboratively with staff, Sustainability Champions will make ambition on climate action thrive. They will advocate the students’ voice representations, and CAPs will be ramped up. It is expected that every School will engage and deliver their plans by 2022 – with the aim to become Net-Zero by 2030.
We are expecting the Sustainability Champions to have a voice in the decision-making when it comes to developing Climate Action Plans and expect them to undertake training on carbon literacy and climate change as part of this.
Extra space for autonomy and creativity will be available for the Champions. They will be empowered and encouraged to take forward any initiative or project that can potentially be beneficial for the wellbeing of the environment, people, and economy. The stereotypical (and well-received) action of planting more plants in the faculty? A workshop about water scarcity in the School of Geographical Sciences? Delivering training for students interested in sustainable development and the climate emergency? Inviting guests to give a speech building such as communication, influencing, and sustainable policies in the School of Policy Studies? “Dealing with eco-anxiety” workshop at the School of Psychological Science?
For more information, get in touch with Sebastian Key, Undergraduate Education Officer. We’ll be introducing the Sustainability Champion next week in a blog.