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Student expectations for action on sustainability as strong as ever

We�ve completed our eighth year of research tracking students' experiences and expectations of teaching and learning for sustainable development in higher education (HE). In 2017-18, over 14,000 students completed the survey, and we�ve now gathered three years of data from students in further education (FE) (for the first five years, the research was funded by the Higher Education Academy, now Advance HE).

This year�s research shows student expectations for action on sustainable development by their institutions to be as strong as ever, with 87% HE respondents and 80% FE respondents saying their university or college should actively promote and incorporate sustainable development.


Looking in more detail at students� experiences of learning the skills, knowledge and attributes needed help address the sustainability challenges facing the world today, over half (61% HE and 56% FE) say being a student at their institution is encouraging them to think and act to help other people and the environment.  Looking in more detail at the range of skills, knowledge and attributes encompassed by education for sustainable development, respondents report varied exposure to teaching at their current institution, for example 65% HE respondents say considering ethical issues linked to their subject has been covered however just 33% say understanding how human activity is affecting nature has been covered.  Reflecting this there is demand for learning more about sustainability, with 57% of HE students and 55% of FE students responding to a survey saying they want to do just that.


The desire to engage with sustainability continues beyond their time in education, according to respondents to the survey.  For example, 75% of HE respondents say they would be willing to make a salary sacrifice of �1000 to work in a company with a positive social and environmental record, a figure that has continually increased over the 8 years of the research (62% in 2010-11 compared with 75% in 2017-18).


These findings chime with NUS� vision for the tertiary education sector as providing educational experiences that equip students with the knowledge, skills and understanding required to make the world a better place.  Through our projects, programmes and campaigns we aim to support students� unions and their institutions to ensure students are routinely provided with learning opportunities that are interdisciplinary and enquiry-based, exploring grand challenges and global citizenship perspectives, developing critical thinking skills and political agency.

These are just a few of the findings of our most recent report about students' experiences and expectations around sustainable development in education. Read the full report here, and find out more about the history of the research here


This year, we�ve also partnered with students� unions and institutions around the world to find out what students studying beyond the UK think about the same issues.  Read the report on this research here.