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Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Changemakers at the University of Hull

June 7, 2023

Overview of ESD Changemakers

ESD Changemakers recognises the importance of democratising education to ensure teaching and learning is relevant to students’ priorities and the world they will be graduating into. In October, the University of Hull recruited a number of students across disciplines to take part in the year-long programme, matching them with academic partners in aligned disciplines.

Students first worked with SOS-UK to conduct a curriculum mapping exercise gauging the extent to which the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and other sustainability criteria are embedded in teaching and learning of their disciplines using module descriptors.

Students worked with their academic partners to explore ESD solutions to challenges revealed in the mapping exercise. Partners were supported to develop knowledge and skills in ESD through a range of workshops throughout the year delivered by SOS-UK, including student leadership for climate justice, creating institutional change and student and staff co-creation for ESD approaches. These workshops were accompanied by informal check-ins with students and a midpoint peer review of work between students and staff.

Final Learning Event

Emma-Rose Walters presenting curriculum mapping findings during final presentations

 On 3rd May, five students, Abhilash Panda(Computer Science), Ben Ryan (History), Husayn Kopycki (Politics and International Relations), Patrick Barron (Zoology) and Emma-Rose Walters(Criminology), gathered with their academic partners and others at the University of Hull to present their work and to discuss experiences and next steps.

Approaches to embedding ESD in learning include:


·       Embedding topics around sustainability in game jams that take place amongst computer science students

·       Ensuring topics around sustainability arecommunicated more clearly in module descriptors for history courses

·       Starting an environmental policy research groupamongst International Relations students in collaboration with the Energy andEnvironment Institute

·       Creating resources around sustainability and provide more real-life examples of sustainability in Zoology modules

·       Developing a series of student-staff projects that we have called: “Ethnographic Field Trips on Sustainable Development in Criminal Justice and Social Justice” in Criminology

Whilst the outcomes from the programme provide a pathway forward for student and staff co-creation for ESD, ESD Changemakers is also focussed on students’ experiences and skills development. In their presentations, students noted a range of knowledge and skills they have been supported to develop, including understanding the full breadth of sustainability and how it relates to their discipline, collaboration and cooperation in their groups, critically thinking about how sustainability is communicated to students – and the benefits of both implicit and explicit linking of sustainability.

Students also emphasised the sense of ownership and leadership that this approach to learning provided – particularly the ability to advocate for student-led principles to be considered in teaching and learning. Students also noted an increased ability in understanding how to be changemakers for sustainability and other ideas going forward.

Despite a range of challenges experienced throughout the programme, including difficulty meeting with partners due to conflicting schedules, competing priorities from academic deadlines and engagement with other students and staff, the five students involved demonstrated strong leadership, perseverance, creativity and project management. Staff at the final learning event described the student input as “invaluable” to teaching and learning at the University.

"My knowledge in this area and been broadened drastically, terms such as co-creation, climate justice, and decolonising weren’t new to me, but never really learnt the definitions, and this project allowed me to learn and understand these topics and embrace them into the discipline. Co-creation has allowed for a more open discourse between the staff and students." Student participant

Going forward

The University of Hull will now discuss how to take these findings forward – particularly focusing on sharing student ideas and presentations widely and continuing to engage students in dialogue around ESD in teaching and learning.


Thank you to all the students and staff who participated in the programme.

For more information on ESD Changemakers, please visit our programme site.