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 Summary - Greening Universities


Now Available in PDF of original - Click here to download





Click here directly to load the full 1991 Environmental Education for Adaptation Report, "leading the way for the greening of universities."


This is 378KB long (46 pp A4) and so may take a minute or two to load. The summary is therefore abstracted below to help you decide if you want it. The 118 pp. Appendix of Departmental summaries is not available online, but should be available by inter-library loan from the University. As a result of this report, Edinburgh University established an environmental teaching initiative which was subsequently disbanded round about 1997. A major product of this, "Curriculum Greening: A resource pack for integrating environmental perspectives into courses," may be found on the university's archive website at: http://www.cecs.ed.ac.uk/greeninfo/gcpack/index2.htm.



Executive Summary


1. "...all undergraduates ...should be exposed to teaching about the wider and more fundamental issues of society's relationship to the environment, including complex social, economic and ethical questions..." (Edinburgh University Educational Policy Committee, 1990/91).


2. The Centre for Human Ecology was given the remit to research the relevant teaching throughout the University.  This was carried out by consultations with Faculty Environmental Co-ordinators, and through questionnaires sent to almost all Heads of Departments followed by telephone interviews.


3. Some distinction was drawn between technical 'environmental' areas already extensively taught, mainly in the Science & Engineering and the Social Science faculties, and the social and cultural questions which underlie ecological issues.  The study found that the "two cultures" division is still very apparent.


4. The study confirmed that much education relating to the environment is already carried out within most faculties.   There is wide (but scattered) interest throughout to develop greater ecological awareness and to coordinate relevant research. 


5. There are also constraints - of resources, of institutional inertia in the complex university structure, of the difficulties of adding to an already full curriculum, of considerable lack of interest or lack of realisation of the relevance of ecology in many disciplines, and of the needs for validation by professional institutions.


6. Several conclusions are drawn and recommendations made - which at this stage must be considered preliminary - to stimulate discussion and action.

These include:

            a) a recognition of urgency - corresponding to a time of rapid global change;  however, of practical necessity, an evolving, adaptive approach towards providing environmental education throughout is recommended;

            b) a continuing group, such as the Faculty Co-ordinators together with the Centre for Human Ecology and others, should be constituted to continue the teaching initiative;

            c) the many opportunities for a deeper level of ecological input to existing courses should be taken as the first steps, by encouraging existing environmental expertise and through the recommendations made below.

            d) the need for seminars, workshops and background materials which were indicated by many faculties and departments.  These would serve to raise awareness as well as exchange expertise.  The resource implications would be small and would be shared between faculties and departments;

            e) environmental research would also stimulate and provide materials for teaching;  this applies especially to areas of research that combine the humanities with the sciences.


7. More substantial change would require new resource allocations;  these could be justified - possibly with the backing of recommendations from the Secretary of State's Working Party on Environmental Education - in accordance with the Government's White Paper on the Environment. There is a parallel with the new government funding which was made available for information technology education.


8. While most disciplines could in principle readily integrate environmental teaching into existing courses, there is also the desire for some form of core or inter-faculty courses which deal with fundamental matters outside the disciplines.  There are existing opportunities for the latter, as with the present courses given by Geography and Biology, Science Studies, and some others; and specific possibilities, as within the Arts General MA.


9. Professional requirements in many subjects, such as law, engineering, medicine and veterinary medicine, restrict the opportunities;  yet if the recent rate of increasing ecological concern continues, the professional bodies will soon demand some environmental inputs; and the University is in a good position to take early positive steps toward this.


10. Recruitment of staff should take environmental interests in the widest sense into account, all other things being equal.


11. With the apparent increasing student concern about the state of the planet, the University should use the Environmental Initiative as a central part of its marketing strategies. As the Initiative becomes a selling point for recruiting high calibre students, so the University should attract the appropriate staff as well as new funding.


12. Institutional consistency should be maintained and encouraged: the initiative in environmental teaching should be dovetailed with those in environmental research and institutional behaviour being promoted at the same time.


13. Students should be involved throughout, through boards of studies, student newspapers and in the standing group on environmental teaching recommended above.


14. Progress can be expected to be phased. If innovative departments are given encouragement, others are likely to follow in due course.


Click here to load the full Report (378KB)


Now Available in PDF of original - Click here to download


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