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Manju Rani Analysis of the “Sustainable Development in the Learning and Skills Sector”

The Learning and Skills Council’s (LSC’s) “Sustainable Development in the Learning and Skills Sector” is the research conducted following on from the Sustainable Development Strategy, “From Here to Sustainability”. Part one of this report will highlight the key findings.

The research report details the learning and skills sector’s work to promote sustainable development. A national survey was conducted by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) on behalf of the LSC to establish the level of sustainable development activity in 151 FE institutions and learning providers in 2005. The survey focused specifically on sustainable development activity in four key areas: buildings and estates, leadership and management, teaching and learning programmes and community and business. The research report also details ten case studies of good practice from follow up visits.

Taking Development into Account

The report findings revealed that providers are taking into account sustainable development in management operations. 69% of providers have undertaken sustainability audits and half of providers surveyed have a sustainable development policy or plan in place. Lack of communication and the promotion of sustainable development activity are seen as key amongst many providers; there is a low but growing emphasis at management level on reporting on performance or to implement the use of champions to advocate and support sustainability and environmental issues.

On an organisational level sustainability and environmental issues feature very rarely in FE. Very few providers seek to employ staff who are socially and environmentally responsible, have an environment management system or have adopted a corporate social responsibility model. However, providers are tending to apply sustainable development activity in buildings and estates to some success despite tight finances. Half of providers use environmentally friendly materials in new builds and refurbishments.


A high proportion of providers operate customary paper, bottles and can recycling initiatives and are strong supporters for local markets and fair trade products. About half of providers encourage the use of more environmentally friendly travel methods, particularly in relation to car sharing and cycling schemes. Providers recognise that adopting environmentally aware initiatives is part of a long term investment despite the fact that initial costs tend to be high. Cost is, however, still a prevailing factor amongst many providers; further investment is needed.

The majority of respondents felt that they were implementing concepts or approaches to sustainable development into existing courses and programmes. However, the report reveals that from the organisations visited there were few instances of a fully integrated process. Land based colleges fared much better with their emphasis on environmental sustainability through farming, gardening and some construction programmes evident in their learning materials and resources.

On the whole there were few examples of a wider and more holistic approach to sustainable development and the report reveals this is a result of providers having little freedom to choose what they can teach (that is, being restricted to meet the requirements of examining bodies). On the positive side, learners undertake volunteering activity in the local community as part of their learning programmes. Providers show good practice in their work with the local community benefiting sustainability and the environment. A large number of providers have fostered close links with local communities in sharing facilities and resources and harbour close links to environmental groups.

Manju Rani

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