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Exploring the current position of ESD in UK higher education institutions

Fiselier, Evelien; Longhurst, James; Gough, Georgina

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Evelien Fiselier

Georgina Gough
Professor in Education for Sustainable Development


© 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to consider the position of education for sustainable development in the UK Higher Education (HE) sector with respect to the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and Higher Education Academy (HEA) Guidance for education for sustainable development (ESD). Design/methodology/approach: By means of a mixed-method approach underpinned by a concurrent triangulation design strategy, this research presents evidence from an online questionnaire survey and in-depth semi-structured interviews. Findings: Insights are presented from case studies of a group of UK Higher Education Institute (HEIs) which have made significant progress in embedding ESD in the curricula. Research limitations/implications: Central to this study is an exploration of the ESD integration process of this group including a description of the approaches to integration, the challenges faced and overcome and the critical success factors. It examines the role of a guidance instrument in simplifying and accelerating the ESD curricular integration process. The results of the study show that there is a multitude of integration approaches applied varying in their emphasis. Practical implications: The main challenge HEIs face is engaging staff that may question the relevance of the ESD concept, and that lack an understanding regarding its implications for their discipline. Critical success factors identified are institution-wide people support, high-level institutional support and funding. The QAA and HEA guidance has successfully supported HEIs in developing their ESD commitments. Originality/value: The results of this research can support HEIs in developing their own approach to ESD, as they learn from similar UK HE providers, particularly with respect to overcoming barriers and enhancing critical success factors to ESD curricular integration.


Fiselier, E., Longhurst, J., & Gough, G. (2018). Exploring the current position of ESD in UK higher education institutions. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 19(2), 393-412.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 9, 2017
Online Publication Date Dec 21, 2017
Publication Date Jan 1, 2018
Deposit Date Oct 13, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jan 5, 2018
Journal International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Print ISSN 1467-6370
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 393-412
Keywords education for sustainable development, higher education, QAA and HEA guidance, curriculum, integration
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the accepted version of the article available at:


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