22 SES 12 C, Policy, Management and Governance in Higher Education
Overview and research questions: The purpose of this paper is to discuss an empirical study which invited university staff employed in the field of educational development to provide their views about sustainability issues in higher education. Specifically, the aims of the study were to: (a) seek educational developer views about whether sustainability issues (particularly sustainability in the curriculum) could form a more central part of their own work; (b) invite educational developers to comment on the usefulness or otherwise of the current (2009) Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Sustainable development in higher education policy. In relation to the conference theme, an idea that I wished to explore was whether there exists a natural, but relatively under-explored link between educational development on the one hand and sustainable development on the other. At a time when both fields face their own challenges (for example, budgetary), it might be that more could be done to link the two together. Thus, the research questions are: (a) To what extent (if at all) would it be useful for educational developers to be more fully involved in sustainability? (b) What views do educational developers have about the HEFCE sustainability policy, particularly its coverage of teaching and curricula issues?
Additional information: Whilst educational developers have varying responsibilities within and amongst different European contexts, they tend to be staff working at the ‘coalface’ in terms of supporting educational schemes and policies at their universities, promoting good use of teaching, curriculum design, assessment and feedback. This study seeks to offer some rich data from the ‘educational developer voice’ about sustainability, which could be useful for informing future versions of relevant policy, but that might also be helpful in casting light on the relationship between educational development and sustainable development. A definition of educational development will be provided drawing on a recent paper by Shay (2012), whilst sustainability issues and debates will be introduced through reference to work by Moore (2005) and Brinkhurst et al. (2011). My paper will also briefly contextualise the aforementioned HEFCE document. Whilst this policy applies only to England to Wales, it will be used as an example document to support the argument that sustainability issues could be more effectively rooted in higher education policy. Consequently, the results and conclusions will be applied to European and international contexts.
Theoretical framework: The study is informed by the ‘theory of the second best’ (Lipsey & Lancaster, 1956-7), and the results will be discussed in conjunction with this theory. The theory focuses on the ‘ideal state’ of an issue, recognising that achievement of this state depends on certain variables, such that, if one or more of these are constrained, it might be better to aim for a ‘next best state’. It has been used in previous sustainability research by Cotton et al. (2009) who explain “Where institutional and other constraints make it impossible to achieve optimal situations... seeking ‘second best’ solutions may provide a way of making progress, and stimulating... reflection and cultural transition” (p. 732).
Some of these references are additional to items cited above. In the full study, a wider range of European literature on sustainability will be drawn upon, reflecting the prominence of this topic in Europe (and particularly in northern European countries). Brinkhurst, M., Rose, P., Maurice, G. & Ackerman, J. D. (2011). Achieving campus sustainability: top-down, bottom-up, or neither? International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 12, 4, 338-354. Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods. Oxford, Oxford University Press, third edition. Cortese, A. (2003) The Critical Role of Higher Education in Creating a Sustainable Future. Planning for Higher Education, 31, 3, 15-22. Cotton, D., Bailey, I., Warren, M. & Bissell, S. (2009) Resolutions and second-best solutions: education for sustainable development in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 34, 7, 719-733. Cotton, D., Sterling, S., Neal, V. & Winter, J. (Eds) (2012) Putting the ‘S’ into ED – Education for Sustainable Development in Educational Development. SEDA Special, 31, London, Staff and Educational Development Association. Cousin, G. (2009) Researching Learning in Higher Education: An Introduction to Contemporary Methods and Approaches. London, SEDA & Routledge. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (2009) Sustainable development in higher education: 2008 update to strategic statement and action plan. Policy development / statement of policy. London, HEFCE. Website: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2009/200903/#d.en.63788 Access date: 10.06.12 Lipsey, R. G. & Lancaster, K. (1956-7) The general theory of second best. Review of Economic Studies, 24, 1, 11-32. Leal Filho, W. (2011) About the Role of Universities and Their Contribution to Sustainable Development, Higher Education Policy, 24, 427-438. Moore, J. (2005) Seven recommendations for creating sustainability education at the university level: A guide for change agents, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 6, 4, 326-339. Shay, S. (2012) Educational development as a field: are we there yet? Higher Education Research and Development, 31, 3, 311-323.
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