Hard Times in Higher Education: The Closure of Subject Centres and the Implications for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
Within many British Universities and, indeed, across higher education internationally, how best to provide education for sustainable development (ESD) has become an increasingly important issue. There is now a widespread view that higher education sectors have a key part to play in preparing societies for the transition to a low carbon economy and the shift towards more sustainable ways of living and working. In the UK, a leading role in this field has been played by the Higher Education Academy and especially its network of 24 Subject Centres, each of which promotes curriculum enhancement in a particular discipline area. The mission of the Higher Education Academy has been to help raise the overall quality of the student learning experience across all disciplines and all Higher Education institutions (HEIs). As part of promoting and supporting many kinds of curriculum innovation and staff development, the HE Academy has championed the cause of ESD. Now, however, as a result of government spending cuts, the Academy is facing severe budget reductions and all its Subject Centres are soon to close. At this pivotal moment, the purpose of this paper is, therefore, to review the HE Academy’s past contribution to ESD and to explore the likely future implications of the demise of its Subject Centres. The paper ends by outlining some ideas as to how the ESD agenda might be advanced in the post-Subject Centre era, in the light of the Academy’s intention to support subject communities under its new structure. The paper has been developed through participation in key committees, engagement with Academy and Subject Centre staff, as well as through a literature review.
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