Building Capacity: Enabling University Leaders to Serve as Role Models for Sustainable Development

By Chris Shiel.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Education

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Bournemouth University (BU) has been amongst the leaders in UK higher education in terms of its ambition to develop graduates as global citizens who understand the need for sustainable development. It has also led the way in terms of a holistic approach to sustainability which embraces curriculum, campus and community. External indicators of success have included achieving the “Eco-Campus Gold Award” (only five other UK universities have Gold or above) and rising up the UK-based People and Planet Green League Table from 20th to 5th place in 2011. Internally, the curriculum validation process has been successful in ensuring that all course teams address sustainability at course review; staff development has supported this endeavour. In the community, support has been given to local stakeholders (including Bournemouth Council) to implement the Earth Charter and to local businesses. Although achievements have been considerable, they have been largely driven, bottom-up, by a handful of committed champions. In 2011, a project was undertaken to secure a step change, gain greater leadership support for this agenda and to begin to develop an ethos that this is a collective responsibility. This paper will set out how the project has attempted to provide university board members and senior staff with the opportunity to consider how they serve as role models for leadership behaviour in sustainable development, and secure campus-wide buy in to carbon reduction. An action learning approach has provided board members and staff with the space to critically reflect on their roles and to develop coherent action plans for sustainable development. Analysis of the success of the approach and the leadership behaviours identified is provided. The conclusion suggests that while there has been some success, more work is required if higher education leaders are to fully incorporate sustainable development into their day-to-day actions.

Keywords: Leadership Behaviour, Sustainable Development, University-wide Approaches

International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.29-45. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 283.471KB).

Assoc. Prof. Chris Shiel

Director, Centre for Global Perspectives, Bournemouth University, Poole, Dorset, UK

Chris Shiel has championed global perspectives and education for sustainable development across higher education. She is an associate professor at Bournemouth University and director of the Centre for Global Perspectives. She is a visiting professor at Glamorgan University Business School. She has been a member of HEFCE’s Sustainable Development Strategy Group since its inception and is currently acting as “critical friend” to the HEA’s Green Academy. She has led the global perspectives agenda at Bournemouth since 2000, and in 2005 was awarded a Higher Education Leadership Foundation Fellowship for her work. Her approach is based on the development of global citizens who understand the need for sustainable development and are better prepared for global employability. Chris has 20 years of academic experience in business and management education, and in particular, organisational development and the leadership of change. She has worked with a number of universities supporting their change management initiatives.