1. Home
  2. Guidance
  3. Curriculum Design
  4. Embedding sustainability
  5. Approaches to embedding citizenship and sustainability

Approaches to embedding citizenship and sustainability

How we understand and approach ‘citizenship’ and ‘sustainability’ will radically shape how and where we see opportunities for these in the curriculum. The concept of sustainability extends far beyond environmental issues being inextricably linked with the social and economic factors. It is therefore relevant to most, if not every, discipline.

Identifying opportunities

Below are some starting points for considering how and where citizenship and sustainability might be embedded in your curriculum. These are useful for identifying opportunities to build on existing content and approaches.

Using the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a globally recognised framework through which to identify common challenges and provide direction for active citizens to enact positive change in a sustainable way. Many universities across the world are using this framework to guide their activity. In 2019, a team of researchers at Bath investigated how the SDGs mapped onto existing provision. Their findings are available to read and explore.

The CLT, in partnership with students, created a workshop resource to help staff and students identify sustainability concepts already embedded within their course, as well as contribute to curriculum design discussions in terms of embedding sustainability. This workshop challenges participants to reconsider their understanding of sustainability and to recognise its vast scope. ‘Sustainability in your curriculum: identify, improve, inspire!’ workshop resources are available to download and use for yourself.

Subject Benchmark Statements

QAA Subject Benchmark Statements set out expectations of standards for bachelors and masters level degrees in a range of disciplines. They are created by academics in the disciplines are reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Statements now include detail on where sustainability might be expected to be addressed within a particular discipline. Whilst they are not intended to be prescriptive, they do provide a useful starting point for reflecting on your current course and unit provision.

Developing competencies

Section in progress

Examples from different disciplines

The Big Picture Challenge: Empowering students with design thinking

Vertically Integrated Projects: Innovative research and applied learning projects that enable inter-disciplinary, multi-level teams of students to work with a member of academic staff on long-term real-world projects, often focused on sustainability themes.


World Climate Simulation – The World Climate Simulation game is a role-playing game premised on a fictitious international climate summit. A facilitator plays the role of a UN leader, while each participant plays the role of a delegate representing a specific nation, negotiating bloc, or, in some cases, an interest group. 

Education for Sustainable Development (Advance HE) – a range of resources including literature reviews and examples of good practice.

Education for Sustainable Development (QAA/Advance HE) – This guidance is primarily aimed at staff involved in curriculum design and course management and delivery, to support them in designing ESD into their courses. However, it is also likely to be of value to senior management teams, those with responsibility for quality assurance and enhancement, and staff involved in directing teaching and learning. It may also prove useful to staff responsible for extracurricular activities.

Angus-Cole KL, Eaton R and Dawes M. The design and delivery of a workshop to support curriculum development, education for sustainability and students as partners: Sustainability in your curriculum – identify, improve, inspire! Emerald Open Res 2020, 2:60 (https://doi.org/10.35241/emeraldopenres.13878.1)

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles