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Washington University in St Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2007

Program Name

Australia: Sustainability and the Environment


With increasing evidence of issues such as global climate change and environmental degradation, the need for sustainable development has become evident. While achieving sustainability will require many approaches, there is an immense body of literature, declarations and charters supporting education as key. Tertiary education is particularly important because universities are training our future leaders and professionals. For this reason, universities have a moral responsibility to prepare to work toward achieving a sustainable world. Unfortunately, integrating sustainability education is complex, requiring a paradigm shift toward collaboration, interdisciplinary education and an action-oriented approach.

This study analyzed the extent to and manner in which sustainability has been integrated into the tertiary curricula of four disciplines: Architecture, Business, Economics and Engineering. Additionally, the major divers and impediments of EfS were reviewed in order to assist universities to take the necessary actions to overcome barriers and effectively implement EfS. The research was conducted over a one month period at Griffith University, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Sydney, and University of Melbourne. Data was collected in two main forms: 1) course handbooks analysis and 2) interviews with professors from each faculty studied.

Data revealed that sustainability as a concept has infiltrated into other disciplines, but at greatly varied levels. Engineering at Griffith and Swinburne and Architecture have accomplished EfS implementation in a well integrated and action-oriented manner, while Business and Economics display a much more limited level of integration. Griffith and Swinburne have made more progress across disciplines, in part due to the universities’ committed executive staffs’ top-down action complementing bottom-up support. Major drivers proved to be a mixture top-down and bottom-up action in addition to pressure from accreditation bodies. The most pervasive impediment was structural impediments of the curriculum itself. The lack of resources on EfS also is an important barrier and requires the further development of case studies and staff education. While no university has achieved complete integration of EfS, the data suggests that within the next 5-10 years Australian Universities will see substantial improvements in the integration of interdisciplinary sustainability education.


Education | Environmental Sciences


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