Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that covers the integrated social, economic and environmental dimensions of the formal and informal curriculum. ESD is a pedagogical approach that can help staff assist graduates who wish to develop the skills, knowledge and experience to contribute to an environmentally and ethically responsible society, and pursue a career that reflects those values.

The HEA’s Future Fit Framework, published in 2012, is primarily for academics, policy makers and senior managers, whilst support staff who want to know more about ESD will also find it helpful. This ESD toolkit complements the framework and provides links to useful resources and pedagogic research that can help higher education professionals to embed sustainable development perspectives and content into their institution and / or curricula.

We also have an ESD tutor resource and student activity series, that is designed to help you incorporate ESD into your teaching practice. These tools were created by Professor Simon Kemp who is an expert in ESD and was named Most Innovative Teacher of the Year at the 2013 Times Higher Education Awards. 

As explained in our ESD starter tool, the UK HE sector is under increasing pressure to address the challenge of embedding sustainable development in the curriculum and ensuring graduates are globally aware and responsible citizens in the 21st century. Employers are demanding sustainability-literate graduates, students are demanding future-proof skills and the UK Government’s vision for a new ‘green economy’ presents both challenges and opportunities for HE providers.   

The HEA works closely with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the student community in the development and delivery of ESD. Research conducted in association with the NUS has shown that more than two-thirds of students expect their institutions to implement sustainable development in their courses. The NUS is currently running a number of sustainability initiatives through their Responsible Futures tool, which aims to ‘put sustainability at the heart of every curriculum’. 

The HE sector is ideally positioned to make a critical contribution to sustainable development through its research and teaching. This view is supported by HEFCE. Progress in ESD requires the reorientation of entire educational systems, making large-scale shifts in curriculum priorities, policy and practice. While sustainability research has accelerated in recent years, existing academic processes and structures have made limited progress in curriculum development.

Visit our Knowledge Hub for discipline specific resources on ESD:


Guidance and Teaching Resources