Higher Education & Sustainable Development

The development of this book has been made possible through support of more than 100 colleagues from around the world, over a decade of action research inquiry and conversation.

Many colleagues around the world have shared with us their frustrations and fatigue in causing peers and senior management to embed sustainable development within their curriculum. We dedicate this book to assisting these colleagues (you know who you are!) and in memory of a mentor and international champion in education for sustainable development, Professor Leo Jansen (1934-2012). May this book, for which he provided encouraging review comments, contribute to his vision of pursuing sustainable development and in particular empowering students for their professional future.

We work day after day not to finish things, but to make the future better because we will spend the rest of our lives there.

Charles Kettering (American engineer & inventor, 1876-1958)

Originally intended as a special issue publication for the International Journal of Sustainability and Higher Education (2007), then launched at the 2010 International Symposium on Engineering Education (ISEE 2010), this publication has undergone several iterations in form. Published in 2014, it connects theory with application – a ready resource for rapid curriculum renewal in Higher Education, towards education for sustainable development.

Higher Education & Sustainable Development:
A Model for Curriculum Renewal

RRP: Paperback £27.99 (ISBN 978-1-84407-860-8) from Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group)

Citation: Desha, C. and Hargroves, K. (2014) Higher Education and Sustainable Development: A Model for Curriculum Renewal, Earthscan Press, Routledge, London.


Sustainability issues will shape what students do in their future careers, especially within built environmentprofessions. Yet many institutions struggle to adapt programs and coursework to reflect this. Responding to a need for guidance, this book provides a practical resource to quickly – and effectively – update curriculum to meet the emergent sustainability context. The authors use their experiences in engineering education and insights from colleagues and institutions around the world to provide tools to address common institutional challenges and to make the most of emerging opportunities.

The book begins by exploring the rationale for action, discussing why curriculum renewal has been challenging to-date and identifying urgent drivers for change. It then presents a new model for curriculum renewal to deal with these challenges, from course and program design through to stakeholder engagement and organisational considerations. The model shows what educational leaders are beginning to practise: a whole-of-system approach to timely program design and review.

The book uses the model to detail practical ways to move forward, including creating a strategy, identifying graduate attributes, mapping learning outcomes, auditing the program, updating coursework and implementing the renewed curriculum. With extensive case study material from around the world, this resource will assist institutions – from department heads to program convenors – to cost-effectively align offerings with present and future educational demands.


Overview & Downloads


  • Mr. Barry Grear AO (President, World Federation of Engineering Organizations)
  • Professor Goolam Mohammedbhai (Secretary General, African Universities Association, and former president of the International Universities Association)
  • Professor Walter Leal-Filho (Editor, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education)
  • Dr Tony Marjoram (Head of Engineering Sciences, Division of Basic and Engineering Sciences Natural Sciences Sector, UNESCO)

Overview and Inspired Quotes

Preface by The Natural Edge Project, including acknowledgements

Introductions by Professor Stephen Sterling, Dr Debra Rowe, and Emeritus Professor Robin W. King

Our One-Minute Pitch

Part 1:  A Compelling Case for Rapid Curriculum Renewal

  1. Higher Education in Urgent and Challenging Times (Download Chapter)
  2. Drivers and Barriers to Education for Sustainability
  3. Deliberative and Dynamic Curriculum Renewal

Part 2: Strategic Transformation through Rapid Curriculum Renewal

  1. A Whole of Institutional Approach (Curriculum Helix)
  2. Informing a Curriculum Renewal Strategy

Part 3: Key Considerations for Each Element of Curriculum Renewal

  1. Identifying Graduate Attributes
  2. Mapping Learning Pathways
  3. Auditing Learning Outcomes
  4. Developing and Updating Curriculum
  5. Implementing the Program

Appendix: Staging the Curriculum Renewal Strategy


Chapter Signposts

Part 1:  A Compelling Case for Rapid Curriculum Renewal

1. Higher Education in Urgent and Challenging Times
The higher education sector faces its most significant challenge since emerging in the 12th Century: to equip society with knowledge and skills to address unprecedented environmental threats and population pressures. The imminent risk from inaction to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, curb energy demand and adapt to extreme weather patterns and temperature fluctuations means that capacity building is urgently required across all professional disciplines and vocational programs.

In this chapter we briefly overview why these times are ‘urgent’, considering growing pressures on the environment, growing economic impacts of environmental issues, and growing levels of enforcement (from regulation and policy changes, and professional body and accreditation agency requirements). We also discuss why these times are ‘challenging’, considering the scale and complexity of efforts required in a short period of time, alongside an increasing pace of technological innovation. The literature suggests that within the next decade there are likely to be abrupt market, regulatory, and institutional shifts responding to global challenges, which will require graduates to be equipped with a range of new knowledge and skills.

While many authors have commented on the slow nature of curriculum for the last half-century, there is a lack of literature addressing how the process may be accelerated. Without such strategic guidance it is not surprising that universities and educational institutions around the world are struggling to update curriculum at a pace that matches societal progress. This is creating a time lag dilemma for the higher education sector where the usual or ‘standard’ timeframe to update curriculum for professional disciplines is too long to meet changing market and regulatory requirements for emerging knowledge and skills.

We conclude that given the current state of affairs, curriculum renewal activities towards ‘education for sustainability’ (EfS) must be accelerated, paying attention to the complexity embedded in producing graduate and postgraduate students within useful timeframes.

As the tertiary education sector transitions to significantly embed sustainability into its offerings over the next decade or so, a range of strategies will be used by higher education institutions. In this chapter we briefly discuss a number of risks and rewards associated with embedding sustainability into the curriculum, and highlight a number of organisations working to assist those who are transitioning their curricula now.

  1. Drivers and Barriers to Education for Sustainability
    The education of professionals will need to be significantly renewed in the coming decade, to align with requirements to respond to a growing range of environmental, social and economic challenges. However, despite awareness of the need for curriculum renewal to deliver ‘education for sustainability’ for more than 20 years, on the whole there has been a slow response, with only a few quick to respond. Although there are signs of change, progress is typically limited to particular examples rather than being mainstreamed across the sectors. In this chapter, we outline a series of drivers and barriers to mainstreaming education for sustainability. Herein we draw on the engineering discipline to provide examples and context for the theory and models presented.

The chapter begins with a discussion of what educators ‘really’ want, drawing on the findings of a series of surveys on energy efficiency education involving over 80% of Australian universities, informed by over 70 international leaders in education for sustainability. We reflect on the ‘timing’ aspect, which is critical to achieve systematic curriculum renewal, particularly considering that pressure to respond to sustainability will increase in the future, as discussed in Chapter 1. As such educators will require a timely, whole of curriculum approach to renewal, with online open-source content that can be readily integrated into existing curricula, and which enables educators to produce graduates to meet the growing demand. Meeting these needs in time and in a resource-constrained sector will require government and industry support for developing ‘ubiquitous’ resources readily transferrable between undergraduate, postgraduate and in-practice training.

Considering the current context for learning and practicing engineering, there are a number of key factors constraining change that are embedded within this ‘operating system’, such as:

  • A shortage of engineering graduates
  • Short-termism in the higher education sector missing important trends
  • Lack of academic staff competencies in emerging areas of demand
  • Persistent ‘old economy’ industry practices are still allowed
  • Perceived threats to employability and position if not delivering old materials
  • Growing disconnect between engineering, science, economics, and policy
  • Lack of convenient access to emerging and rigorously peer-reviewed content
  • Lack of access to information and resources in foreign languages
  • Lack of strong requirements for change in curriculum from accreditation bodies

In spite of the power of these constraints, we also observe a number of key factors that are beginning to drive rapid curriculum renewal to include sustainable development:

  • Shifting requirements by employers and governments
  • Increasing student demand for the subject
  • Increasing level of availability of research funding related to sustainable development
  • Increasing focus in declarations and conference topics
  • Increasing professional advocacy
  • Shifting codes of practise for engineers
  • Shifting accreditation requirements for graduate engineers

Key to achieving education for sustainability, is understanding that there are significant challenges to overcome in achieving curriculum renewal of any type, let alone with content that is rapidly emerging and wide reaching in scope. A number of deeply entrenched organisational, pedagogical and cultural factors affect the ability of education providers to respond to changing needs. Within this context, the stage is set for Chapter 3, where we embark on a conversation about how curriculum renewal can be improved, to embed emergent knowledge and skills in a timely manner.

  1. Deliberative and Dynamic Curriculum Renewal
    Despite decades of attempts to embed sustainability within higher education, literature clearly suggests that, on the whole, the education sector has been relatively slow to incorporate sustainability knowledge and skill areas, and is generally poorly prepared to do so. Over the last decade our research team at The Natural Edge Project have developed many educational resources to accelerate the transition to education for sustainability. This chapter outlines a model that has been informed by these efforts working with our mentors around the world that are leading the way.

With current approaches, education for sustainability may never eventuate across the entire higher education sector – clearly a continuation of ‘business as usual’ is not a palatable option for the sector or society at large. In light of this reality, we have sought to develop a whole of system approach to implement systematic, intentional and timely curriculum renewal that is responsive to emerging challenges and opportunities, encompassing curriculum and organizational change. This includes action at the level of the educator and at the level of the institution.

This chapter takes a step away from the topic of sustainability to consider the processes for embedding any emergent knowledge and skill set into the curriculum. We present a model for deliberative and dynamic curriculum renewal that has evolved from our exploration of literature, case studies, pilot trials, and a series of workshops with sustainability educators from around the world over the last decade. We also pay homage to the curriculum theorists who have inspired this model, considering the evolution of curriculum renewal processes since the early 1900s, including Tyler, Taba, Wheeler, Kerr, Walker, Stenhouse and Egan.

It is important to ensure the context for including sustainability is clear to avoid renewed curriculum being susceptible to random change. Critical sustainability knowledge and skill areas could subsequently be deleted or replaced without consideration of the overall impacts on the curriculum. Language associated with this type of curriculum includes ‘ad hoc’, ‘champion-based’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘isolated’, ‘duplication’ and ‘expensive’. In contrast, where knowledge and skill sets are considered within the overall context for the program of study (i.e. ‘deliberative’) and in the systematic development of particular graduate attributes (i.e. ‘dynamic’), the resultant curriculum is resilient to incidental change that is not aligned with program aspirations. Language associated with this type of curriculum includes ‘systemic’, ‘team-based’, ‘robust’, ‘connected’, ‘complementary’, and ‘cost-effective’.

We conclude by discussing methods of managing timeframes for curriculum renewal. Beyond the ‘deliberative and dynamic’ model described in this chapter, timing depends on numerous other factors. There is a clear need for institutions to consider ‘by when’ should the renewal process be complete, and who should be involved. This may then highlight the need for considering ‘rapid’ curriculum renewal – for example if there is a significant backlog of content that needs to be embedded in a contracted period of time.

Part 2: Strategic Transformation through Rapid Curriculum Renewal

4. A Whole of Curriculum Approach (‘Curriculum Helix’)
Despite decades of calls to respond to environmental issues within higher education, particularly related to climate change, highly regulated disciplines such as engineering have been relatively slow to incorporate sustainability knowledge and skill areas, and are generally poorly prepared to do so. If this process is left to a ‘business as usual’ approach it could take another two decades for sustainability to be embedded within the curriculum, clearly beyond many scientific calls for action and emerging government and industry targets. Responding to this dilemma, this chapter provides a platform for taking a whole of institution approach to curriculum renewal where knowledge and skills are embedded across higher education institutions. At the heart of this approach is the curriculum renewal strategy (described further in Chapter 5) that can facilitate a collaborative and timely transition.

In the absence of such a strategy there is typically a lot of ‘reinventing the wheel’ between, and within, institutions over time while they wait for program-wide, department-wide and institution-wide strategies. Clearly attempting holistic change as part of isolated projects is counter-productive, and also counter-intuitive. Although attempting such efforts creates experience and builds the capacity of staff involved, it may actually foster an insular approach that involves a minimum of other staff internal and external to the university, hindering systemic efforts. In this chapter we explore the question of how does a department transition from occasional, ad hoc experiences in curriculum renewal to undertaking a strategic whole of institution approach that delivers multiple benefits across the university?

Answers to this question will differ for each institution depending on factors such as current processes, governance structures, and preferences. However a number of aspects will be reasonably consistent across institutions, which support the curriculum renewal strategy.

The ‘Curriculum Helix’ provides a framework for the curriculum renewal strategy, to allow a strategic and collaborative approach to embedding sustainability into curriculum in a manner that delivers the strongest benefits to the institution. The Helix is arranged to focus on six activity streams in four stages including preparatory activities, piloting the curriculum renewal efforts, transferring learnings, and achieving integration across programs. The helical (oscillating) nature of the streams highlights that they are interconnected in undertaking various tasks within the strategy, delivering milestones within each stage. Furthermore each activity stream will have a role to play as each of the elements of the Deliberative and Dynamic model are undertaken – indeed a whole of institution approach!

5. Informing a Curriculum Renewal Strategy  
Imagine for a moment that you are the head of an institution’s executive and are convinced of the need to commit to education for sustainability. You understand that this will call for changes across each of your program offerings while retaining industry relevance, meeting accreditation requirements, and continuing to attract students. Although your institution is worried about taking risks, it is also worried about not keeping up with competitors and potentially losing students and staff to other institutions.

There are also a number of significant operating challenges that demand your attention: research performance, student enrolment, capital works, infrastructure maintenance, staff resourcing, workload allocations, and so on. As usual, these are all competing for priority. In short, although you have certainty that something has to be done, and clarity about the risks of not acting soon and the benefits of doing so, how will you develop a strategy for something as ambitious as achieving program-wide curriculum renewal? Perhaps it is without precedent?

Given the overwhelming evidence for the need to capacity build professionals to contribute to achieving sustainability in the coming decades, universities around the world are now posed with the question of ‘how far … and how fast … do we proceed to transition to education for sustainability?’. This is a particularly daunting consideration, given the size of the scope, the short time frame for action, and that there is little to no precedent or guidance.

The manner in which these questions are answered will heavily influence the quality of the response by the institution, and not only have wide reaching budget and resourcing implications, but will also affect the level of risk and reward the institution achieves over time. In reality a top-level commitment that provides a list of outcomes for staff to achieve without a whole-of-organisation strategy is unlikely to compete effectively with other immediate, day-to-day challenges and bureaucratic pressures that face the institution, and may be overtaken by other agendas.

Education institutions are complex interconnected human systems that require a steady-hand to steer towards comprehensive reform. When beginning to approach the questions of ‘how far’ and ‘how fast’ we present a number of considerations that will require some investigation, in particular related to external trends and internal capacity. This and the subsequent chapters provide guidance on key considerations for any institution seeking to develop a strategy to deliver education for sustainability, in a timely manner.

Part 3: Key Considerations for Each Element of Curriculum Renewal

  1. Identifying Graduate Attributes
    Graduate attributes are gaining popularity as a tool to inform curriculum renewal efforts. Not only do they help to define the kind of graduates programs seek to deliver, they provide a tangible way for accreditation bodies to communicate to universities what students are expected to develop by the time they complete their studies. Yet despite this increasing popularity, graduate attributes receive a mixed review among academics, and the actual use of graduate attributes is still very low. As Professor King reflected in a 2008 review of engineering education in Australia,

Few engineering education programs are underpinned by a comprehensive specification of program objectives and detailed graduate outcomes that provide a clear understanding of the knowledge, attributes and capability targets for graduates in the particular discipline.

We often come across colleagues and educators in Australia and overseas that are not familiar with what the term means. Amongst those who are there is clear understanding of the importance of graduate attributes, however there is also reluctance to consider generating graduate attributes for their own programs, or interpreting what they mean at the level of individual courses. Often we hear complaints that such as the level of inquiry is too time consuming and does not seem practical. For those who have previously broached the concept of sustainability-related graduate attributes, their initiatives struggled due to the lack of a coherent process to reach agreement on what graduates should know in relation to sustainability.

In responding to this range of familiarity among educators of the use of graduate attributes and the mixed review of those who have some experience with their use, this chapter focuses on first explaining what graduate attributes are, and then outlines opportunities to use them to focus sustainability curriculum renewal efforts. The chapter also addresses the difficulty of reaching consensus in identifying sustainability-related graduate attributes, outlining a timely and effective facilitation approach that has proved invaluable for our team in facilitating many such workshops over the last decade.

  1. Mapping Learning Pathways
    The process of mapping graduate attributes across programs involves discussions about how considering how this might be achieved in each course. With no course actually ‘on the table’, and no-one’s course ‘under threat’, this level of discussion can be quite proactive and collaborative! However, when we talk to colleagues about mapping learning pathways, this element often gets confused with the previous element ‘identifying graduate attributes’. Many workshop participants have not heard about the potential for mapping a series of learning outcomes within a program to develop one or more attributes, assuming it is sufficient simply to highlight program intentions for student capabilities at the end of their studies. Then, when conversation moves to what evidence could show how attributes are being developed, the discussion takes many turns. Layer after layer of confusion about terms and their meanings such as ‘graduate attributes’, ‘competencies’, ‘learning outcomes’, and so on are uncovered and we are all reminded that this field is as much another language as any foreign language, with many dialects!

In reality, most academics probably ‘map’ learning pathways to achieve graduate attributes to some extent. Perhaps you have sat in assessment meetings or program planning meetings where topics such as ‘design’ are discussed with regard to ‘who teaches what and where’. Perhaps this has been in the context of developing a particular skill such as computer aided drawing. Your department may have even been asked to show evidence of program mapping for attributes to do with ‘professional practice’, ‘sustainability’ or ‘ethics’ at a recent accreditation review. However, in practice there are still few examples of detailed mapping for programs, across the full suite of graduate attributes that students are supposed to develop by the time they graduate. Further, this development appears to be more of an assumed ‘accumulation’ that will automatically occur, given the number and range of courses on offer.

With this in mind, this chapter begins by explaining what we mean by ‘mapping’, discussing a number of key terms and the evolution of the practice. Building on Chapter 6, which discussed the identification of graduate attribute statements, we explore how mapping fits into the process. For every graduate attribute that has been selected, there will be one or more component knowledge and skills – or competencies – that need to be embedded into student learning, across one or more courses, for that attribute to be developed by graduation.

The chapter then discusses how these competencies translate into learning outcomes with mapped pathways for developing graduate attributes in the curriculum. This includes a method for distilling competencies and learning outcome statements and mapping them, course-by-course. We also discuss why – in contrast to the process for identifying graduate attributes, which requires participation from the whole department – the mapping process can be undertaken by a small team of academics including the program convenor, and teaching and learning expert.

  1. Auditing Learning Outcomes
    Building on from the development of preferred graduate attributes in Chapter 6, the mapping of these attributes within programs to develop learning pathways and the identification of specific courses to support this in Chapter 7, this chapter focuses on gaining an understanding of the task at hand through an audit of learning outcomes at the course level. The chapter outlines a collaborative and non-confrontational process to systematically review existing courses in a program for the existence of knowledge and skills related to the preferred graduate attributes. The process seeks to both identify areas of strength and weakness, and consider threats and opportunities for the course. At this point the proposed audit approach addresses ‘what’s so’ in the current curriculum, which then informs the curriculum renewal strategy.

Responding to the outcomes of the audit can deliver multiple benefits, not only in the development of the graduate attribute at the program level, but also to avoid re-inventing the wheel (‘I didn’t know you covered that too?’), missing key steps in developing an attribute (‘I don’t understand why my students can’t do this by the time they get to my subject – I am wasting time covering this’), or missing key concepts altogether (‘I thought someone else was covering that’).

In summary, it is clear to us that timely curriculum renewal towards education for sustainability relies on an audit that produces a clear understanding about ‘what’s so’ in the curriculum, versus ‘what should be’. It is equally important that this process is undertaken in a collaborative, transparent, and non-confrontational way (often supported, or even led by external facilitators). Rigorous assessment is critical in working out where the curriculum is performing well in developing the attributes, where it could be improved, and what priority it is for renewal. The audit also helps to define what expertise might be lacking in the department, for potential future appointments and/or collaboration.

  1. Developing and Updating Curriculum
    Our journey into this element was a surprise, requiring much more than a quick mention within the chapter on the model itself. It has taken many workshops and collaborations to understand the type and extent of the issues in developing and updating curriculum. In short, issues around integrating learning outcomes within courses are real and widespread, requiring immediate attention and support. Even with the three preceding elements (Chapters 6, 7 and 8) providing context, direction and support, there are additional hurdles to overcome. No wonder then that there is such a high incidence of failure and frustration when faculty attempt to develop and update curriculum in isolation.

At this point in the curriculum renewal process there are a number of learning outcomes allocated to new and existing courses within a program, to achieve one or more graduate attributes. As a logical next step, one might conclude it to be a straightforward matter to address these new learning outcomes, then follow-through with updating courses. After all, curriculum renewal is well established within higher education, and self-directed by faculty for the most part. The majority of student evaluations are above average, so why are we concerned? Unfortunately in higher education successfully embedding learning outcomes within courses is the exception rather than the rule. Not only do academics struggle with emerging topic areas and knowledge and skills implications for their courses, they also struggle with the process of curriculum renewal itself, requiring greater support and strategic direction. Furthermore, there are few incentives to do curriculum renewal well, beyond ‘passing’ the next round of student evaluation and ticking the teaching boxes in performance appraisals.

With these considerations in mind this chapter is not intended to be prescriptive in how faculty should shape courses to deliver intended learning outcomes. Rather, it provides a menu of opportunities and provokes thought about what may be possible for your institution, avoiding ‘re-inventing the wheel’ and optimising faculty time on curriculum renewal. The chapter begins by addressing four common misconceptions to create a clearing for curriculum renewal to occur. The rest of the chapter then draws on lessons learned over the years to discuss four mechanisms to for overcoming barriers to developing and updating courses, grouped under the following considerations:

  • Harnessing existing resources;
  • Engaging in institutional collaboration;
  • Connecting with campus operations; and
  • Connecting with community projects.
  1. Implementing the Program
    It is the equivalent of ‘grand opening night’. The stage is set, casting complete, script prepared, the audience have paid their tickets and are in their seats. The production – in this case your program – is ready to roll and perhaps there are some nerves back-stage! At this point, you may have several questions such as, ‘what is the lowest-risk way to roll out the renewed curriculum?’, ‘will the students engage with the updated curriculum?’, ‘how will I know – and be able to communicate to others – whether it is successful?’, ‘are my colleagues taking action to address their new learning outcomes too?’ Perhaps there have been some ‘reviews’ and marketing of your sustainability inclusions in your course/s already, which has secured your student enrolment for the semester. Now it is time to implement them, and capture feedback for continual improvement. In this chapter we explore opportunities for minimising institutional risk and faculty time spent in course implementation, taking advantage of what has already been achieved from the previous steps in the process.

This chapter begins with a discussion of the ‘reality’ of unit implementation, where despite the best planning processes new challenges are likely to arise that could threaten to derail the process. Through greater understanding of these it is possible to take actions that keep the process on track, with satisfied faculty, students, and key stakeholders. The chapter then highlights a number of financially attractive opportunities that can be harnessed during this step, including suggestions for:

  • Developing faculty strengths
  • Catering for professional practitioners
  • Sharing faculty and curriculum resources
  • Reaching out to schools and the community

It has been tempting for us to use this publication to discuss the various types of teaching and learning options to engage with education for sustainability. Many papers on the topic blend content and pedagogy, signalling the importance of ‘how’ to teach the new knowledge and skill sets, as much as ‘what’ to teach. From blackboard and whiteboard lectures through to online interactive media and problem-based learning, there are a myriad of options available to interact with students, many of whom approach their studies with cultural preferences. Keeping this in mind we highlight the importance of a ‘whole of system’ approach to learning in the updated curriculum, through whatever pedagogy is chosen by faculty. In this approach, students are required to draw on their core training in a given field and interact with each other, to apply knowledge and skills developed through their program, tackling increasingly complex and integrated challenges.


The education for sustainable development field is still emerging, and we are early career academics in the topic area. To present a rigorous discussion we have relied on the extensive experience and wealth of knowledge within our international network of researchers and practitioners. Drawing on many voices, we have endeavoured to communicate the latest research and opportunities while being pragmatic about the scale of challenges and existing inertia within higher education and academia.

Mentors and collaborating partners are the real champions of this field and have provided wisdom and experience that bring this publication to life. Over the years the team has collaborated with hundreds of colleagues through a range of university partners to create, implement and review a range of curriculum renewal options. Notably, these include investigating graduate attributes with James Cook University and Queensland University of Technology; considering strategy development with Monash University; problem inquiry and sharing at international forums with University of Tokyo, UNESCO, WFEO, the International Symposium on Engineering Education in Ireland; collaborative research with the Australian Government and Engineers Australia; auditing existing courses with James Cook University and Monash University; and content and program development with the University of South Australia, Griffith University, Australian National University, the University of Adelaide and the Queensland University of Technology. Further to this we have attended numerous associated events and forums and have been fortunate to have been mentored by many of the world’s leading sustainability educators and action-heroes such as the late Leo Jansen, Stephen Sterling, Debra Rowe, John Fien, Peter Newman, Hunter Lovins, Don Huisingh, Walter Leal Filho, Karel Mulder, Janis Birkeland, Roger Hadgraft and Simon Kemp. We also received blind peer review of the key concepts by 40 colleagues in the field, in collaboration with Walter Leal and his team at the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education.

We wish to acknowledge the partners that have assisted our efforts to apply the ‘Management Helix for the Sustainable Organisation’ model to the higher education sector. We thank our colleagues from The Natural Edge Project (TNEP) research group for their support and commitment during this time, without which breakthroughs would not have been possible. In particular Ms Angela Reeve, Ms Omniya el Baghdadi, Ms Annabel Farr, Ms Fiona McKeague, Mr Peter Stasinopoulos and Mr David Sparks, and Professor John Fien (RMIT), Professor Neil Dempster and Professor David Thiel (Griffith University) for their trans-disciplinary mentoring and supervision.

The following colleagues from around the world are acknowledged for thought and strategic contributions over the years of development: Dr Esat Alpay, Imperial College, UK; Professor Martin Betts, Queensland University of Technology, Australia; Associate Professor Gary Codner, Monash University, Australia; Dr Didac Ferrer-Balas, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain; Dr Amanda Graham, MIT, US; Ms Michelle Grant, ETHsustainability, Switzerland; Professor Doug Hargreaves, Queensland University of Technology, Australia; Professor Kwi-Gon Kim, Soul National University, Korea; Mr David Singleton, Global Infrastructure Business, and Corporate Sustainability, ARUP; Professor Mino Takashi, Tokyo University, and Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S), Japan; Professor Wu Zhiqiang, Tongji University, China.

We also thank colleagues for their review assistance with the manuscript text (affiliations correct at the time of review, in alphabetical order):

  • Dr Azizan Zainal Abidin, Petronas University, Malaysia;
  • Dr Esat Alpay, Imperial College, UK;
  • Professor Adisa Azapagic, University of Manchester, UK;
  • Professor Martin Betts, Queensland University of Technology, Australia;
  • Dr Carol Boyle, University of Auckland, New Zealand;
  • Dr Martin Bremer, Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico;
  • Mr Wynn Calder, Director, Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future;
  • Mr Tom Connor, KBR, Australia;
  • Professor Neil Dempster, Griffith University, Australia;
  • Ms Elizabeth Ellis, Griffith University Business School, Australia;
  • Dr Didac Ferrer-Balas, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain;
  • Professor John Fien, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia;
  • Dr Amanda Graham, MIT, USA;
  • Mr Barry Grear, President, World Federation of Engineering Organisations;
  • Professor Doug Hargreaves, Queensland University of Technology, Australia;
  • Professor Jan Harmsen, Shell and University of Groningen, Austria;
  • Ms Chandler Hatton, Delft University of Technology (masters student), Netherlands;
  • Professor Don Huisingh, Chief Editor Journal of Cleaner Production; University of Tennessee;
  • Professor Francisco Lozano-Garcia, University of Monterrey, Mexico;
  • Dr Karel Mulder, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands;
  • Dr James Newell, Rowan University, America;
  • Professor Ned Pankhurst, Griffith University, Australia;
  • Dr Euan Nichols, Victoria University, Australia;
  • Dr Margarita Pavlova, Griffith University, Australia;
  • Professor Michael Powell, Griffith University, Australia;
  • Professor Yi Qian, Tsinghua University, China, and Member, Chinese Academy of Engineering;
  • Ms Milena Ràfols, Polytechnic University of Catalunya, Spain;
  • Dr Debra Rowe, President, U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development;
  • Dr Mariano Savelski, Rowan University, America;
  • Associate Professor Magdalena Svanström, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden;
  • Mr Fabian Sack, Manager Environment and Sustainability, Downer EDI, Australia;
  • Dr Luis Serra, University of Zaragoza, Spain;
  • (the late) Mr Hisham Shabiby, Vice President, World Federation of Engineering Organisations;
  • Mr David Singleton, Global Infrastructure Business, and Corporate Sustainability, ARUP;
  • Mr Niek Stutje, Delft University of Technology (masters student);
  • Professor David Thiel, Griffith University, Australia.
  • Workshop participants, in particular the 2007 International Conference on Engineering Education and Research, Melbourne; 2007 Australasian Association of Engineering Education Conference, Melbourne, and 2008 Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Conference (EESD08).