(Sustainability Tool for Assessing Universities Curiculla Holistically)

In many higher education institutions there has been strong progress in incorporating sustainability into research, buildings and operations. However, many institutions are struggling to incorporate sustainable development into their curricula.

STAUNCH® (Sustainability Tool for Assessing Universities’ Curricula Holistically) has been developed to allow higher education institutions to measure their contributions to teaching from a sustainable development perspective.
STAUNCH® provides a two tiered balance of Sustainable Development; the first one through the cross-cutting themes; the second by calculating the numerical balance and strength across the four aspects. STAUNCH® evaluates course descriptions by grading them against 40 criteria divided into economic, environmental and social aspects as well as the cross-cutting themes that link these, such as long-term thinking, humans as part of nature and sustainable development ethics and the underlying philosophy. The tool analyses the balance and strength of the courses against these themes, and how they build on the university’s degrees and its schools to the teaching of sustainable development. The results are shown in graphical and numerical formats, which enable comparisons to be made within an institution and between institutions, and highlight areas for improvement.

STAUNCH®’s results provide a snapshot of how SD is currently being addressed by the different courses, schools and within the university, which can serve to question current programmes and discuss how they could better contribute to SD, and help the institution to better align with the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

STAUNCH® can help universities to systematically assess their curricula’s contribution to sustainability, and how the university is preparing its students to understand SD and hopefully incorporate SD principles into their future professional lives and personal lifestyles. STAUNCH® can also ‘kick-start’ discussions on SD within the different schools, departments, and faculties. Another advantage of STAUNCH® is that it could help compare different universities, providing the information is available and can be used consistently.

The first version of the tool was successfully piloted in 2007 in all the universities in Wales, two universities in England, and one of the most prestigious universities in Mexico. STAUNCH® 2010 (which incorporates number of credits and number of students, also provides information for each of the criterion) has been used in the University of Leeds, where almost 2,800 modules in two faculties (Business and Environment) were analysed. Other universities are in the pipeline.