Session highlights

Let all disciplines be involved in issues of climate education and sustainability…Whether it’s drama, education, or sociology, let it be mainstreamed.” Dr Michael NKuba, Post Doctorate Researcher, University of Botswana 

  • What role can Higher Education institutions play in addressing issues around climate change and sustainability? University College of Estate Management Research Fellow Dr Renuka Thakore noted that universities should make use of systems thinking, to provide “holistic, integrated, and interdisciplinary education” on these complex issues. She called for institutions to connect more internationally, perhaps by inviting overseas lecturers to speak via online video about local issues and context.
  • Universities often collaborate across borders, but perspectives and circumstances are not always the same. Stephen Davison, Deputy Director of Cambridge University’s Cambridge Zero, said that it was important that universities did not just dive in with a single solution, and that they should instead “demonstrate the breadth of experts and solutions out there”. He also advocated for carbon literacy programmes, such as those devised at Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • For Dr Michael NKuba, Post Doctorate Researcher at the University of Botswana, the key was to ensure that all disciplines played a role in researching and educating about climate change and sustainability. For example, accounting experts could devise ways to measure the performance of companies around sustainability. Meanwhile, linguistics experts could assist in understanding whether “climate change” means the same thing to someone in Colombia as it does to someone in a very different part of the world. 

Session summary

This year, the UK will host the COP26 (the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties) in Glasgow. Supporting COP26 priorities through education is critical for promoting global sustainable development and achieving ambitious climate targets. Profound transformations are required in the current education system, including learning and teaching environments of the higher education institutions (HEIs), if these transformations are to play an important role in tackling climate change and coordinating collective action for sustainable development. Transformations are required at strategic, tactical, and operational levels. At the same time, these transformations must involve broader and systemic change, coevolving within the core activities of HEIs (e.g., strategic capabilities, research, operations, and community engagement; Fischer et al., 2015). This session investigates how HEIs can develop strategic sustainability capabilities to deliver Education for sustainable development and climate change. 

The session will focus on the following four topics:

A. Strategic Capabilities: The elements of education for sustainable development in terms of curricula that can contribute to HEIs' sustainability curricula and build strategic capabilities of its stakeholders' (students, staff, employers, etc.) to contribute to climate change and SDGs.

B. Innovation: How can universities act as global connectors with open and inclusive engagement for mobilisation and partnerships with less international travel because of the imperative to reduce their carbon footprint (and the restrictions imposed by Covid-19)?  

C. Research: The critical role of research undertaken by HEIs in societal transformation, importantly, in their global-local context and increasing future practitioners and decision-makers capabilities to resolve problems interfacing with and impacting on Climate change and SDGs. 

D. Engagement: The importance of community engagement (or extension) programmes where HEIs can disseminate research findings and facilitate community's involvement in internal and external local and global sustainability issues.


  • Chair: Prof. Malcolm Press, Vice-Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
  • Stephen Davison, Deputy Director (Strategic Development), Cambridge Zero, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Prof. Dr. Jose Luiz Esteves, CEO, Founder Exponentialis Learning and Education for the Future, Brazil
  • Dr Michael NKuba, Post Doc Researcher, University of Botswana, Botswana
  • Dr Renuka Thakore, Resarch Fellow, University College of Estate Management, United Kingdom

See also