Programme: Civil Engineering
How is sustainability included in it?
Most of the design work in the programme is iterative rather than transformative, with sustainability teaching emerging organically from the content. We don’t have a sustainability stream or pathway or teaching group (as we do for structures, water, soils, etc) but we do discuss it a lot, have had meetings about it, and embedded it deep into the programme – so deep that often it’s not explicitly there, but you only have to look at the output of our students and the work they go on to do to see how deeply embedded it is. It emerges both from the fact that Civil Engineering needs sustainability as a core skill taught for accreditation, and that there is genuine interest in sustainability from lecturers in the school.
The iterative approach means that it’s not necessarily always outwardly visible that sustainability is core in things like ILOs. However, when looking at the work students are doing, it becomes clear that sustainability is fundamental to everything that is taught.
There is also the political dimension of sustainability, which is sometimes made explicit by some lecturers. It is not part of the ‘curriculum’, but it’s impossible to talk about the discipline without thinking through the political dimensions. This is done by ensuring that all building projects will have political and sustainability impacts assessment as part of the teaching, as well as practically through activities like stakeholder management, which is an inherently political process.
If it uses any unusual/original pedagogy or assessment approaches to do this, what are these?
All first years undertake an ‘engineers without borders’ project to engineer a solution to an international problem. Although they don’t necessarily have the engineering skills at this stage to do it properly, this is a learning experience which is important to frame the rest of the course around sustainability, and also something they can go back to in their four years as undergraduates.
Throughout all the projects that students undertake, recognition of sustainability is always one of the key skills students have to show to be successful.
What sustainability-relevant ‘takeaways’ would you expect students to gain?
Everything that we do as civil engineers has an impact on sustainability, but it’s a matter of whether you recognise that fact. A good analogy is that of fish, who swim in the water but don’t necessarily realise they’re in water. Well, it’s the same relationship for engineers and sustainability. Another crucial takeaway is the ability to ‘challenge upwards’, to fight for change in the organisation/project one is working on.