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Manchester Metropolitan University and Students' Union Case Study - Leadership in Sustainability Strategy

Case Study

June 29, 2023

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Leadership in Sustainability Strategy

Overview of initiative/action

As a top three ranked institution in the People and Planet University League for the last decade, sustainability has been a priority for Manchester Metropolitan University for some time. We have delivered Carbon Literacy training to our students on a voluntary basis since 2012 and have been Responsible Futures accredited since 2015, reflecting our engagement with sustainability teaching and learning.

But now we are going further to demonstrate our commitment to embedding sustainability in our formal and informal curriculum. We are passionate about providing all Manchester Met students with the skills, knowledge, and mindsets to tackle sustainability challenges through whichever career or life path they take. To achieve this, our new Leadership in Sustainability Strategy commits to embed climate change education (i.e., Carbon Literacy) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in all our courses by 2026.

How did we go about this?

In 2020, we embarked upon developing a new sustainability strategy. At about the same time, we had recently delivered Carbon Literacy for Leaders training to about 100 senior colleagues from across the University, which strengthened support for the new strategy. We delivered interactive workshops open to all staff and students, and a short survey for internal and external stakeholders collected feedback about what the University’s key sustainability priorities should be. We also developed projects to engage students in the development of our new sustainability strategy and ran a student-led campaign on Instagram and Facebook. Our new strategy was successfully approved and launched in 2022.

Impact of initiative

Having a co-created, endorsed Leadership in Sustainability Strategy is one thing. Implementing it is quite another.  What steps have we taken to date?

To achieve this, we have enhanced our quality assurance processes to evaluate ESD and Carbon Literacy delivery in programmes across the institution, and sustainability is now included as a key theme in our university Graduate Attributes.

Developing capacity of staff to understand how to address ESD and Carbon Literacy in taught courses is essential. We have taken a phased approach, and to date, our focus has been on Carbon Literacy. To enable this, we have recruited Carbon Literacy Champions from every academic department. The role of the Champion is to support this vital work by embedding Carbon Literacy into their courses and promoting the initiative across their department.

Our Carbon Literacy team has delivered pioneering, award-winning Carbon Literacy and Carbon Literacy train-the-trainer training to staff, students, and external organisations for several years. They have also developed a Carbon Literacy Project Toolkit, freely available to universities and colleges. Based on their expertise, the Carbon Literacy team have recently developed Teach Carbon Literacy training, which is delivered to Champions to equip them to deliver Carbon Literacy training as appropriate to their discipline. As delivery is rolled out, students trained in Carbon Literacy through their course will then be encouraged to undertake Carbon Literacy train-the-trainer training themselves.

Our next phase is to develop and mainstream support to effectively embed ESD. In 2022, we identified a UNESCO endorsed CoDesignS ESD toolkit and worked collaboratively with colleagues and students to successfully trial it. We are now working across the university to co-develop and trial training to effectively embed ESD in a way that is relevant to all disciplines and to the Manchester Met context.

Role that RF criteria/ programme has played in this initiative

The Responsible Futures programme has been valuable in providing a framework to encourage action on embedding sustainability across the institution and in catalysing support from the partnership to enable this.

The Responsible Futures Criterion:

  • LS004 – The institution's overall strategic plan and/or the publicly-stated learning outcomes include supportive references to whole-institution engagement with sustainability.

Additional Comments

At Manchester Met, we are fortunate that sustainability is viewed as a priority and a shared responsibility, and it is thanks to colleagues, students, and partners who are such effective agents of change for sustainability that we have been able to take these steps. Yet we know there is much more to do, and we will need to continue to work together if we are to achieve our commitments.