Prof Daniella Tilbury was commissioned by UNESCO ESD Section to research and write a report that reviews developments and progress in Higher Education in the area of sustainable development during the DESD years. The DESD, or UN Decade in Education for Sustainable Development, commenced in 2005 and will close this year with a celebration in Nagoya, Japan.

The report tracks the stepping up of efforts across higher education in this area and assesses  the catalytic impact of interagency approaches and government investment, the significant investment in lowering the carbon footprint of universities and colleges, and large-scale efforts to introduce sustainability into the curriculum.  It documents glimpses of good practice in the reorientation of learning and teaching processes, curriculum design and quality systems towards sustainable development. The report argues that universities and colleges have also understood the value of outreach activities in gaining trust amongst stakeholders and affirming higher education’s role in social change for sustainability. The evidence it presents suggests that progress in areas such as student leadership, adoption of governance structures and whole-of-institutional approaches has taken at a slower pace. The study concludes with recommendations for the ESD Global Action Programme to prioritise efforts and professional and leadership development opportunities for programme leaders, lecturers and tutors as well as senior managers and sector leaders who have responsibility for curriculum quality and academic development. Building capability and academic networks in this area may well prove catalytic in the quest to reorient higher education towards sustainable development. The report will be presented at the UN ESD Conference in Nagoya.