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A university’s transformational change agenda

Longhurst, Jim; Gough, Georgina; Brooks, Ian

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Georgina Gough
Professor in Education for Sustainable Development

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Ian Brooks
Senior Lecturer in Sustainable IT


Wendy M. Purcell

Janet Haddock-Fraser


This chapter presents a chronological review of the University of West of England, Bristol (UWE) and its engagement with the environmental agenda of the late 20th century before reviewing its transformational sustainability agenda over the last twenty years within the university staff, student and leadership bodies. It considers actions undertaken by staff to promote environmental action in the late 1990s and explores key factors that have enabled, supported and directed the sustainability agenda within the university. Significant amongst these factors have been the interests and enthusiasm of staff, the expectation and latterly demand of students, and senior staff leadership. In the last two decades strategic direction has become clearer and embedded within the overarching university strategy that, in turn, has set clear targets and timescales for action. The university has been willing to embrace change and has learned from failure to fully embed sustainability within decision making or to carry through sustainability ambitions when faced with short-term cost challenges or value engineering decisions. These latter issues have improved through external certification to ISO 14001 and Responsible Futures accreditation as well as from the increasing expectation of students and staff for demonstrably sustainable outcomes from university actions and investments. Throughout the university’s transformational change process a critically important element has been the partnership with the Students’ Union (SU) External drivers of transformational change are discussed and opportunities to celebrate sustainability actions, such as in 2015 when Bristol was the European Green Capital noted. Four case studies conclude the chapter exemplifying the transformation the university has undergone over the last thirty years as it addressed the environmental and later the sustainability challenges that society faces.


Longhurst, J., Gough, G., & Brooks, I. (2023). A university’s transformational change agenda. In W. M. Purcell, & J. Haddock-Fraser (Eds.), Bloomsbury Handbook Of Sustainability In Higher Education: An Agenda For Transformational Change. Bloomsbury Publishing

Online Publication Date Jan 12, 2023
Publication Date Feb 9, 2023
Deposit Date Mar 6, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jul 13, 2023
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing
Edition 1st
Book Title Bloomsbury Handbook Of Sustainability In Higher Education: An Agenda For Transformational Change
ISBN 9781350244344
Keywords UWE Bristol, Transformational, ESD, Change, Chronology
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Copyright Statement
This is the author’s accepted manuscript of the chapter ‘Longhurst, J., Gough, G., & Brooks, I. (2023). A university’s transformational change agenda. In Bloomsbury Handbook of Sustainability in Higher Education: An Agenda for Transformational Change. Bloomsbury Publishing.’

The final published version is available here:

© Bloomsbury 2023.

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