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What do students really think about sustainability in education

We've published the 7th year of research into students' experiences of teaching and learning for sustainability.

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For seven years now, we've been tracking students' experiences and expectations of teaching and learning for sustainable development in higher education (HE). This time, over 12,000 students completed the survey, which was funded by the Higher Education Academy - and this is the second time we've included students in further education (FE).

Our research thus far has consistently shown that almost all students want their universities and colleges to actively embed and promote sustainable development. Fifty-eight percent of students surveyed this year say that sustainable development is something they would like to learn more about - down from 63% in the 2010/11 research. This may be related to changing understandings of the term 'sustainable development'; people may use different words to denote the same things, as language evolves. 

Most students say that secondary education as a place of study has had a greater influence on them in terms of awareness around the environment and helping others than FE or HE. On the other hand, HE students believe that their current place of study does more to reduce its negative impact on the environment and society than their previous educational institutions. For FE students, secondary schools were more active in this area than colleges. 

The most commonly reported impact of learning about sustainable development by respondents in HE and FE was a belief that they now do things differently as a result. Students generally feel that learning about these issues improves them as individuals, and contributes to important life skills. 

We've only recently begun including FE in this survey, and it is valuable to look at their results in isolation. Almost three quarters think that all courses should actively incorporate and promote sustainable development, but educational experiences aren't generally meeting this expectation. Exposure to teaching on the most sustainability-focused skills is reported as lowest by FE students. Only 30% say they have experienced teaching on 'looking at global problems from the perspective of people from around the world'.

These are just a few of the findings of our most recent report about students' experiences and expectations around sustaianble development in education. Read the full report here