Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Will it work? – The University of Planetshire Approach to integrating sustainability across the curriculum (Part 5 of EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University)

Best wishes to you all for a wonderful 2014….!

First of all, let’s look at the context of this blog post on the practicability of the University of Planetshire Proposal.

The last two blog posts introduced an innovative approach for integrating sustainability across the curriculum of a university and then considered in some detail its outputs. This has been branded as The University of Planetshire Approach, based a fictitious UK university.

These blog posts are:
·        University of Planetshire approach to integrating sustainability across the curriculum (Part 3 of EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University)
·        Outputs of the University of Planetshire Approach to integrating sustainability across the curriculum (Part 4 of EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University)

Their immediate context is the EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University, as presented in these two posts:
·        EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University (Part 1): curriculum content and delivery
·        Opportunities for integrating sustainability across curricula (Part 2 of EDUCATION pathway to a Sustainable University)

The EDUCATION pathway is in turn one of the six pathways to a Sustainable University – the others being OPERATIONS, RESEARCH, OUTREACH, CULTURE and INSTITUTION. These pathways are outlined in:
·        Pathways to a sustainable university

This way, a robust framework has gradually been developed around this fictitious Planetshire University. Meant to be more than a framework, it is a concept that has been developed for implementation at a university as a research and development project in order to support the institution’s programme on integrating sustainability across its curriculum.

In this sense, the question is: will it really work? The answer is: Yes, it will. Let’s see why…..

Broadly speaking, there are three main reasons:
·        The current pressures-opportunities mix is right for universities to integrate sustainability across their curricula
·        This Planetshire proposal is robust and has been informed by a three-year old, live experiment, namely The Sustainable University One-stop Shop (, recognised in UNEP’s Greening Universities Toolkit (page, 61)
·        The proposer can deliver this project because of his versatility and strengths – knowledge, skills, experience, networks and passion

Let’s consider these in more detail as follows:
·        The pressures -opportunities mix for integrating sustainability across university curricula
·        The robustness of the Planetshire Proposal
·        The potential of the Planetshire proposer

The pressures-opportunities mix for integrating sustainability across university curricula

The first reason is that the current environmental factors are right for universities to integrate sustainability across their curricula. 

In the context of sustainability, universities are facing a variety of pressures but there exist opportunities too.


The pressures are of four types:
·        Social pressures
·        Regulatory pressures
·        Sector pressures
·        Funding pressures

Social pressures: Universities are facing a growing social pressure to become more sustainable, particularly in the context of extreme weather events that continue to increase in terms of intensity and frequency. Moreover, sustainability is widely interpreted as a knowledge crisis, so the wider community – local to global – turn to these pinnacles of knowledge for solutions. Society also expects universities to produce sustainability oriented and competent graduates to lead and work in green economies.

Regulatory pressures: Regulatory pressure is increasing on universities to become more sustainable on the grounds that they, like other organisations, have to contribute their share. An example is achieving national carbon reduction targets.

Sector pressures: The higher education sector itself directs universities towards sustainability pathways. In a UK context, as 2014 dawns, two consultations are in progress: (1) the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) on the ESD guide for UK higher education developed by the QAA and The Higher Education Academy (HEA); and (2) the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on its Sustainable Development Framework (Online consultation on QAA/HEA draft guidance on ESD for UK higher education open until 3 January 2014; and HEFCE consultation on Sustainable Development Framework until 7 February 2014

Growing prominence of the Green Gown Awards of the Environment Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) and the Green League of the People and Planet continues to influence universities to consider sustainability seriously (Green Gown Awards 2013 – Winners and Highly Commended; and Manchester Metropolitan tops People & Planet Green League 2013

Moreover, the prominent Higher Education Awards of the media, such as Times Higher Education and Guardian University Awards have dedicated categories on sustainability-related themes (Times Higher Education Awards 2013: Greenwich wins Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development; and CELEBRATION: Guardian University Awards 2013 – University of Wales TSD wins Best Sustainability Project award

Above all, a high regard for sustainability is visible among UK students as reflected in a recent report by the HEA and the National Union of Students (NUS) and also in their high level of enthusiasm in the recent Students Green Fund programme of the NUS (HEA-NUS Report 2013: Student attitudes towards and skills for sustainable development; and NUS announces 25 Students’ Green Fund projects in England

All these indicate a sustainability-oriented direction of future UK higher education.

International collaborations and initiatives in higher education are another source of pressure on universities to consider sustainability seriously. Examples include Europe-focused COPERNICUS Alliance, North America-focused Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), UNEP’s Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability (GUPES) and Greening Universities Toolkit, United Nations University’s global RCE network and UNESCO’s ESD Global Action Plan, the successor to the UN Decade on ESD (2005-14).

Funding pressures: Funding pressure is another challenge that universities have to deal with in a grim economic climate. In the UK, for example, restrictions to access to public funding would mean that universities should be more self-sufficient financially. Thus universities should be more conscious about their sustainability image, resulting from their sustainability policy, practice and performance. In a society in which sustainability is gradually finding itself in the mainstream, universities need to carefully consider the views of their stakeholders, especially future students (for income on tuition fees), funding bodies (for income of research grants) and businesses (for income through consultancy and collaborations). In the future, such stakeholders to associate with an unsustainable university in the context of a society with a growing sustainability orientation.


The good thing is that sustainability offers universities opportunities too although only forward looking, innovative institutions have noticed its potential for their development.

Such opportunities for a university include:
·        Opportunities for cost savings
·        Marketing and reputation opportunities
·        Opportunities to enrich the institution’s other higher education agendas
·        A unification opportunity under one university banner

Opportunities for cost savings: Sustainability offers opportunities for cost savings, direct and indirect. For example, a sustainability culture in a university is likely to result in immediate cost savings in terms of lower utility bills and reduced waste handling and disposal costs. Sustainability policy and practice will lower the risks of breaching environmental regulations, hence lowering the likelihood of paying fines and penalties.

Marketing and reputation opportunities: Sustainability can be used for indirect marketing and reputation enhancement. For example, in student recruitment in the future, a university’s sustainability credentials are likely to play an increasingly critical role in attracting sustainability minded-future students to the institution. Moreover, through outreach, a university could position itself as a sustainability leader in the wider community, especially at the local level, to obtain the ‘social license to operate’.

Opportunities to enrich other higher education agendas: Other higher education agendas can significantly benefit from sustainability. Today, a widely accepted notion is that universities, being the educators/trainers of future professionals, managers, educators and leaders, have a responsibility to ensure that their graduates are fit for working in growing green economies and living in a finite, fragile and crowded world as global citizens and leaders. It links to three agendas of graduate employability, internationalisation and global citizenship.

A unification opportunity under one university banner: Sustainability is relevant to all stakeholders of a university so it provides that institution with an overarching mission to rally all its stakeholders – external as well as internal – under its banner. Its unification potential could be strategically used for the institution’s development and reputation enhancement.

The robustness of the Planetshire Proposal

The second reason is that the Planetshire Proposal is robust so it can effectively support a university’s endeavour of integrating sustainability across its curriculum.

The robustness comes from following:
·        The proposal is based on a globally-known experiment launched three years ago
·        It has a sound academic basis
·        It strategically integrates the relevant elements
·        It is rich in marketing and reputation potential
·        It is cost effective
·        It is simple in implementation

Globally-known experiment: The Planetshire Proposal is based on a live experimentation that started in January 2011. This experiment, titled The Sustainable University One-stop Shop, has been informed by feedback from experts in sustainability in higher education and ESD. With a globally visible presence on social networking and recognition at all levels, including global (United Nations) level, this experiment is significantly known in the higher education community worldwide (especially in the UK, the US and Australia). Please see the visitor locations maps of The Sustainable University One-stop Shop ( and its News website (

Academic basis: This Approach has a sound academic foundation based on the contemporary literature. Perceiving campus as a living laboratory for sustainability (Beringer and Adomssent, 2008), it synthesises the three curricula opportunities – formal, informal and campus (Hopkinson et al., 2008) – in the context of an adapted version of the 4-C model comprising campus, curriculum, culture and community (e.g. Blake and Sterling 2011). It is also informed by the proposer’s Masters Dissertation on Green Universities (at Kingston University) and his Masters education in Education for Sustainability (at London South Bank University).

Strategic integration: The Planetshire is a holistic approach that engages all relevant stakeholders, systems, disciplines, core functions and outputs, unlocking their synergies. It offers incentives to all stakeholders involved and has great potential to rally them around a university’s (sustainability-informed) mission. This proposal can also contribute to an institution’s other higher education agendas such as graduate employability, internationalisation and global citizenship.

Marketing and reputation potential: This approach can harvest the marketing and reputation potential of being a sustainability-oriented university, which not only produces sustainable graduates but also helps wider community in their sustainability endeavours. It can therefore be viewed as a rich source of indirect marketing and reputation for student recruitment, research grants, business consultancy and collaboration and corporate social responsibility (CSR). By walking the talk, the Approach itself strives to adopt sustainability principles in its implementation (e.g. free online access to all resources, avoidance of printing, collaborative learning opportunities through open sharing).

Cost effectiveness: The Planetshire is a cost effective approach due to its extensive dependence on free resources (e.g. free website builders, social networking and MS Word/PDF combination) and avoidance of printed matter. The proposer with versatile strengths, namely knowledge, skills, experience, networks and passion, will resemble a team, contributing to cost-effectiveness.

Simple implementation: The Planetshire proposal can be implemented easily by way of a three-year research and development project, minimising the burden on the host university in terms of administration and financial commitment. Implementation would be further simplified due to its being run by a versatile single person acting like a team. The proposed Planetshire programme is meant to act as a support provider to a university’s endeavour on integrating sustainability across its curriculum. So this proposal aims to use the opportunities in formal, informal and campus curricula in that institution while avoiding any direct interference with the formal curriculum. Because this indirect approach would avoid resistance to changes to the formal curriculum, the Planetshire proposal is a good first step for any university that would like to start the journey of integrating sustainability across its curriculum.

The potential of the Planetshire proposer

We have so far covered two of the three reasons why the Planetshire Proposal has a high level of success in implementation, namely (1) the pressures-opportunities mix is right for a university to do something like this and (2) the proposal itself is robust.

Finally, the third reason is that the proposer has a high potential to deliver this proposed programme successfully. His potential can be outlined as follows:
·        His strengths
·        His past work similar to the proposed Planetshire outputs

Strengths of the proposer

The proposer’s strengths can be classified as follows:
·        Knowledge
·        Skills
·        Experience
·        Networks
·        Passion
·        Achievements


The proposer has a multi-disciplinary and sustainability-relevant education background that cuts across social sciences and natural sciences/ engineering:
·        MSc Sustainability, Environment and Change, Kingston University UK (2013)
·        MSc Education for Sustainability (EfS), London South Bank University (LSBU), UK (2009)
·        MPhil Energy Efficient Buildings, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka (2002)
·        BSc Eng (Hons) in Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka (1998)


The proposer’s skills can be outlined as follows:
·        Innovation (including innovative use of free web resources)
·        Research
·        Social networking
·        Science communication
·        Arts (painting, photography and poetry)
·        Writing, editing, touch-typing and proof-reading
·        Lay-out making on MS Word to produce PDFs
·        Entrepreneurship


The proposer has a range of experience as follows:
·        Online one-stop Shop making
·        Research and academic
·        Communications (Sustainability)
·        Communications (Corporate with a sustainability focus)
·        Social networking
·        Print media (in Sri Lanka)
·        Resource development
·        RCE development

Online one-stop Shop making: Since 5 January 2011, The Sustainable University (SU) One-stop Shop experiment ( has advanced Sustainability in higher education (HE) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) worldwide, achieving over 27,000 hits. It comprises seven satellite websites and ‘Sharing for a Sustainable World’ #SSW (a social updates sharing scheme of eight types). This unfunded and unsupervised self-driven experiment has entirely been developed using free web resources. It has achieved recognition at a range of levels, from local to global, and is featured in the UNEP Greening Universities Toolkit

The satellite websites of the SU One-stop Shop are:
·        SU News & Info (sustainability in HE & ESD),
·        SU Research (sustainability in HE & ESD),
·        SU Good Practice (photos from UK universities),
·        SU Quotes (ESD-related),
·        SU Blog (on sustainability in HE),
·        SU Diary (reflections on ESD),
·        SU Micro-blog (Twitter),

Its eight types of social updates comprising ‘Sharing for a Sustainable World’ (#SSW) are:
·        Sustainable Development #SDupdate
·        Climate Change #CCupdate
·        SU News #SUnews
·        SU Research #SUresearch
·        SU Good Practice #SUgoodpractice
·        SU Quotes #SUquotes
·        SU Blog #SUblog
·        SU Diary (reflections on ESD) #SUdiary

A one-page overview of The SU One-stop Shop

Research and academic: The proposer’s research experience comes from two dissertations, namely sustainability in higher education (at Kingston University) and education for sustainability (at London South Bank University LSBU), a research degree (on energy efficient buildings at Moratuwa University) and a research project (on understanding structural behaviour, also at Moratuwa University). He has also been engaged in own research to develop the SU One-stop Shop. Turning to his academic experience, he was a Distance Learning Tutor on the Education for Sustainability at LSBU and a Lecturer at the English Language Teaching Centre of Moratuwa University.

Communications (Sustainability): Since March 2010, the proposer has volunteered as Communications Intern at LSBU-based London RCE (Regional Centre of Expertise) on ESD, which is part of the global RCE network of the UN University. Having played a key role in its communication strategy development, he developed a branding scheme for communications. Then, using free resources, he designed its logo ( and produced its website (, e-newsletter ( and a resource on Sustainable Business ( In addition to the website, he currently runs its news website ( and twitter ( An overview on the tools developed for the London RCE

Moreover, he has worked as a Communications Intern at a number of other UK organisations, including LSBU, London Environmental Education Forum (LEEF) and Leisurevest Ltd (now Innohabitat Ltd), mainly producing communication tools.

Communications (Corporate with a sustainability focus): The proposer worked for 4½ years as a full time Communications Consultant for Holcim (Lanka) Ltd, which is part of the Switzerland-based global cement manufacturing Group with a strong focus on Alternative fuels and raw materials and Sustainable construction. There, he was instrumental in initiating four corporate publications (three bilingual print publications – internal newsletter, external newsletter, Holcim Tsunami Fund newsletter – and an e-newsletter, English-only version of the Tsunami Fund newsletter), producing 38 issues altogether. He covered the entire spectrum of the production, including article ideas, planning, collecting material, photography, writing, editing, laying-out (with printer’s technical help), proof-reading and co-ordination (with printer and in distribution). His civil engineering educational background, arts skills and ability to convert mundane (usually technical) information into compelling stories helped him in attracting readers to these publications. An issue of Holcim Voice, the external newsletter:

Social networking: The proposer has three years of experience in strategic integration of social networking tools, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Wordpress and Google Blogspot, with the central website of the SU One-stop Shop. Please also see ‘Network’ below.

Print media (in Sri Lanka): In 1993-2007, the proposer has published in the national press in Sri Lanka a total of 141 press articles, a quotations-based column called Mind Mirror (39 parts) and 105 poems. He mainly wrote about buildings, construction, energy and sustainability, often with academics at Moratuwa University as resource persons. Although his articles contained scientific/technical information, they were presented in simple language, attracting non-specialist readers. Some of his press articles (with academics as resource persons) are:
·        Buildings for sustainability: An overview
·        Understanding waste – the first step in solving Waste Crisis (Part 1)
·        World Trade Centre (WTC) disaster: Lessons of safety

Resource development: As a volunteer, he has developed a number of resources, including Sustainable Business guide ( for the London RCE and (Buildings for Sustainable Development,, a self study resource for engineering undergraduates of Moratuwa University.

RCE development: As Communications Intern of the London RCE, the proposer has attended its quarterly meetings soon after they started. Therefore he has a good idea on how to develop an RCE through tapping into ESD-related networks at a variety of levels, local to global.


The proposer’s networks are of two types:
·        General networks
·        Networks developed through social networking

The proposer is:
·        Connected to the global RCE network of the UN University (as the London RCE communications intern for nearly four years)
·        Connected to the Global Learning network of the EfS programme of LSBU (as an alumnus/ former distance learning tutor)
·        Connected to some academics and top level administrators at Moratuwa University (as an alumnus and as a science/engineering journalist dependent on Moratuwa academics as resource persons)
·        Connected to a few editors in Sri Lanka as a result of publishing press articles and a column

Through integrated social networking, he has developed a global network on Sustainability in Higher Education and ESD:
·        LinkedIn (750 connections, including VCs and CEOs, especially in UK, e.g. Five VCs, 7 DVCs/ Assistant VCs; and 9 PVCs)
·        Twitter (1100 followers)
·        Wordpress used as satellite websites of the SUOSS, namely News, Research, Good Practice, Quotes and Diary websites
·        Google Blogspot used for the Sustainable University Notes blog
·        Klout score 51 on 31 December 2013 (


The proposer’s passions are of two types:
·        Primary passions: Sustainability in higher education, ESD and Innovation
·        Secondary passions: Research, Writing, Green buildings, Science for sustainability, Arts (painting, photograph and poetry) and Cultural diversity


The proposer’s achievements are as follows:

Recognition and awards for The Sustainable University One-stop Shop,
·        UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Greening Universities Toolkit (, page 61) (2013)
·        One of the ‘Selected websites’ in the book The Sustainable University: Progress and prospects (, page 318) (2013)
·        A resource on the HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) website
·        A First Prize in the Bright Ideas contest 2012 of WestFocus University Collaboration ( (2012)

·        Professor EOE Pereira Memorial Award for the Best Paper presented at Annual Sessions 2001 of the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka, IESL (as a co-author) (2002)
·        Seven peer-reviewed research publications (2000-2003), including two in the international journal Energy for Sustainable Development (,

Science communication: Two special awards from the Society of Structural Engineers Sri Lanka for promoting Structural Engineering in the national press (1997, 2000)

Arts: In secondary school, subject awards for Art and the First Place (Middle School) at the 150th Anniversary Art Exhibition of Royal College, Colombo

Proposer’s past work similar to the outputs of the Planetshire proposal

In other contexts, mainly in his current experiment called The Sustainable University One-stop Shop, the proposer has developed tools similar to those proposed in the Planetshire proposal. (For an outline of the tools of the Planetshire proposal, please visit The following table gives such tools similar to some of those proposed in the Planetshire Proposal.

Tools of the Planetshire proposal 

His past work similar to the proposed Planetshire tools
Planetshire Curriculum for a Sustainable Future
The Sustainable University (SU) One-stop Shop

Research for a Sustainable Future

Sustainable Campus

Sustainability in the Wider World

Light & Deep Sustainability
Published poetry:


Knowledge sheets
Sustainable Business guide (
Buildings for Sustainable Development booklet (

London RCE newsletter
Holcim Voice newsletter (printed, not using Word-PDF combination)

Project blog

ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) Reflective Diary blog

Proposer’s LinkedIn profile

Flickr (photos)

Online Library (
Proposer’s publications shelf

Academic papers
Two papers on thermal comfort in passive buildings published in 2002 and 2003 in the journal Energy for Sustainable Development

Press articles
Three press articles published in the national press in Sri Lanka
·        Buildings for sustainability: An overview
·        Understanding waste – the first step in solving Waste Crisis (Part 1)
·        World Trade Centre (WTC) disaster: Lessons of safety
A column published in the national press in Sri Lanka

RCE Planetshire’s website, news website and Twitter
London RCE website
London RCE News website
London RCE twitter

Interested in the Planetshire proposal?

Summing up, the Planetshire Proposal will effectively support a university’s endeavour of integrating sustainability across its curriculum, mainly due to three reasons. The time is right for universities to embark on integrating sustainability across their curricula; the Planetshire proposal is robust; and the proposer has the required potential to deliver it successfully.

If you are interested in the Planetshire proposal, or in a similar idea or project, please feel free to contact the proposer Asitha Jayawardena:
·        By email:
·        On LinkedIn:
·        On Twitter:!/sustainableuni1


Beringer, A. and Adomssent, M. (2008) Sustainable university research and development: inspecting sustainability in higher education research. Environmental Education Research, 14(6), pp.607-623.

Blake, J. and Sterling, S. (2011) Tensions and transitions: effecting change towards sustainability at a mainstream university through staff living and learning at an alternative, civil society college. Environmental Education Research, 17(1), pp.125-144.

Hopkinson, P., Hughes, P. and Layer, G. (2008) Sustainable graduates: linking formal, informal and campus curricula to embed education for sustainable development in the student learning experience. Environmental Education Research, 14(4), pp.435-454.

The Sustainable University One-stop Shop:
Satellite websites: News and Information | Research | Good Practice | Quotes | Blog Diary | Micro-blog (Twitter)

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