Bristol – a showcase for sustainability shared with European students

Issue date: 05 July 2013

Hot on the heels of Bristol winning the title of European Green Capital, 48 students and 17 tutors from nine European cities are being hosted by UWE Bristol to enjoy a two-week intensive programme on the theme of 'Education for Sustainable Development: Exploring Hopeful Pathways for Preferable Local and Global Futures'.

A partnership between the Education Department at UWE Bristol and St Stephens University (Hungary) was first forged during a TEMPUS programme (1991- 1996) focussing on Developing Independent Learning in Formal Education. Since 1997 this same partners has submitted successful applications each year to the EU ERASMUS foundation for funding for Intensive Programmes on a range of social, cultural and educational themes. A wide range of European partners have participated in these successful programmes. In 2011 the consortium was identified as running the best Intensive Programme in Europe and was invited to participate as consultants in a round table conference about the future of the Lifelong Learning Programme in Europe. The focus for this year's programme, hosted by the Education Department at UWE Bristol, is Education for Sustainable Development: Exploring Hopeful Pathways towards Preferable Local and Global Futures. The successful submission was made as a complement to the City of Bristol's own application to become the Green Capital of Europe, on the understanding that the partnership between the University and the City of Bristol would provide an outstanding context for exploring viable sustainable futures.

Students are challenged to question how they can contribute positively to the sustainability agenda in their everyday lives and future employment. The participating students come from a range of professional and subject disciplines including education, economics, psychology, social work, law, illustration and ecology. The exciting programme is enriched through opportunities to make visits to local organisations including schools, local sustainability projects and green social and economic enterprises. In this way the students learn about the different ways in which Bristolians and University staff are taking the sustainability agenda to their hearts.

There is evidence after the first few days of the programme that students are highly stimulated by this collaborative learning venture. Some positive comments were;

“I am really enjoying the visits to locations in the city. It means that we are not only learning in the classroom but are also able to witness in person what we are being taught about.”

“I am enjoying all aspects of the programme, especially the workshops because they help me understand a lot of things. They have inspired me, giving me all kinds of positive feelings.”

“A very important point for me was the visit to the school and the model session that we ran there. This inspired me a lot.“

Dr Jane Tarr, associate head of department in UWE's Education department, one of the organisers of the IP Week, commented, “This is a new and very vibrant experience for me on the UWE site. Students and staff are engaged together in lively discussions about the contributions that can be made through education towards the creation of just and sustainable societies. Students are already saying that the programme is changing their feelings about positive actions that they can make through their personal and professional lives”.

Dr Nick Clough, who has worked from his base at the Education Department at UWE Bristol in partnership with European countries for over 20 years concludes, “We are hoping that this experience will draw out students' capacities for collaboration and creativity and in this way strengthen their confidence and resilience in the face of the many ecological and economic challenges that we are facing.”

The consortium has just has been granted monies from the EU ERASMUS foundation for next year – 2014 - which will be the 16th successive year of ERASMUS Intensive Programmes.

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