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How to embed sustainable development in universities in Wales

Sustainable development is core to Welsh universities’ civic mission and the new Civic Mission Framework supports universities to demonstrate their actions for the purpose of promoting or improving the economic, social, environmental or cultural well-being of Wales and beyond.

Wales, as the first country globally to create legislation to embed sustainable development in all areas of its work through the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 , is also leading the way in embedding this in universities through its work on civic mission. Lynnette Thomas, the inaugural Chair of the newly formed Universities Wales Civic Mission Network, outlines how all nine universities in Wales worked collaboratively to agree a Civic Mission Framework . The framework is intended to demonstrate the impact of the HE sector’s civic mission work across their local communities, Wales and globally. In addition, it will guide universities in their decisions and frame civic activity across Wales through making strategic choices to prioritise certain civic objectives and help universities engage and work in new ways to reframe the conversation with partners, leaders and communities.

There are five strategic themes:


  • Leading place - engaging with other key civic leaders at a national and community level
  • The contribution to raising education standards by developing links with schools, colleges and other learning environments
  • Developing active citizenship
  • Acting as the engine of social enterprise, business skills and employability
  • Responding to global issues.

    Each of these themes capture the range of activity happening within Welsh universities and highlights how it aligns with the seven different wellbeing goals and five ways of working in the Act.

    Universities have agreed to update these annually and together they form a clear picture for the sector on its contribution to society and the economy in a place-based manner. Never has this been more important than through the work the sector did so quickly in responding to the pandemic and its role in a green recovery and renewal.

    The Open University in Wales has demonstrated this in a number of ways responding to the economy by working with Careers Wales to provide support for furloughed workers and upskilling Working Wales staff by providing free online training webinars and OpenLearn courses . Furthermore, a project - Cardiff Commitment CPD - was established through co-design with Cardiff Council teachers and Cardiff and Vale College to support the professional development needs of teaching staff in their approach to blended teaching and learning pedagogy, both in response to the global pandemic as well as in preparation for the new Curriculum for Wales.

    Universities have a key role to play in ensuring our communities thrive and recover quickly from any impacts from the pandemic but this has to be done in a sustainable way for our future generations. Civic mission is the way in which universities demonstrate we are up to that challenge.

    Lynnette Thomas is Deputy Director, Strategy & Development (Wales). Her focus is to provide leadership to The Open University in Wales’ strategic planning, partnerships, research, innovation and engagement and business development activities, promoting and securing opportunities, to grow the University’s reach and impact across Wales. She is Chair of the Wales Civic Mission Network.


Posted 01/06/2021 15:47

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