The Natural Edge Project The Natural Advantage of Nations Whole System Design Factor 5 Cents and Sustainability Higher Education and Sustainable Development

"Today, there is a need to reinvent development. A new paradigm can only be achieved by many stakeholders working together and tackling economic, as well as social and environmental issues with equal results."
Jose Maria Figueres, Senior Managing, Director of the World Economic Forum

Engineering Education & Sustainable Development
‘A Guide for Rapid Curriculum Renewal’

Download the publication synopsis here (Publication Date: Mid 2010, Earthscan Press)

Book Launch - 3rd International Symposium for Engineering Education
(1-2 July, Ireland)



In a rapidly changing global market and regulatory environment, this book will provide practical support for the millions of engineering educators around the world who are grappling with how programs of study can be renewed to address emerging 21st Century challenges. By collating, synthesising and contributing to the body of knowledge on the process of embedding sustainability within curriculum, the authors hope to address key barriers to curriculum renewal and in doing so, help to build momentum for a rapid and large scale transition in the engineering education sector. As the education for sustainable development field is still emerging, and as early career academics in the topic area, the authors have relied on the extensive experience and wealth of knowledge within a network of more than 40 researchers, practitioners and students from more 14 countries, to ensure that the latest research and opportunities are communicated, while being sufficiently pragmatic and realistic with regard to the scale of the challenges, and existing inertia within the higher education system and engineering education fraternity.

“At a time when it is more critical than ever for education for sustainability in higher education to be mainstreamed, I look forward to publishing this novella on curriculum renewal in collaboration with The Natural Edge Project.”

Walter Leal-Filho, Editor, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

“The team from The Natural Edge Project have provided a well argued appraisal of the rationale for rapid curriculum renewal to education for sustainable development. Higher education institutions around the world clearly have significant incentives and a variety of tools to embrace this challenge over the next decade.’ Wynn Calder, Director, University Leaders for a Sustainable Future. ”

Mr. Wynn Calder, Director,
Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, Washington, DC.

“Engineering education for sustainable development is important to business as the national and global economy gears up for the challenges presented by climate change, resource constraint and greater public engagement with the sustainability agenda. This novella highlights that employers are increasingly seeing sustainability, and particularly the emerging carbon economy, as an opportunity rather than just a risk. Business needs graduates with the knowledge and skills to operate in a rapidly emerging market in sustainable engineering services.”

Dr. Fabian Sack, Group Manager Sustainability, Downer EDI

“This is a wonderful compilation of local and international initiatives that highlight ways of embedding sustainability and sustainable development issues, from the outlying teacher scenario of ‘I’ll include it if I must’ (assuming the staff has heard of the topic and sees any need) to the very core of any teaching, and the needs of the student experience – the Raison D’être.”

Dr Euan Nichol, Senior Lecturer, School of Architectural,
Civil and Mechanical Engineering, Victoria University

"With my experiences as Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Zaragoza, I agree with the idea that the universities who can innovate a process to integrate sustainability content within their existing programs will, in the medium to longer term, attract larger numbers of students and achieve notoriety as leading education institutions. In this respect, and as a first step prior to a deeper integration of sustainable development into the programs, we are promoting EESD at the undergraduate and postgraduate level with specific courses. For this purpose we have used parts of the curriculum developed by the TNEP team, which is excellent and without any doubt, we have found useful in reducing time spent in generating and checking new content”

Professor Luis M. Serra
Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Zaragoza, Spain


- Mr. Barry Grear AO (President, World Federation of Engineering Organizations)
- Professor Goolam Mohammedbhai (Secretary General, African Universities Association, and former president of the International Universities Association)
- Dr Tony Marjoram (Head of Engineering Sciences, Division of Basic and Engineering Sciences Natural Sciences Sector, UNESCO).
- Professor Walter Leal-Filho (Editor, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education)

1. Rationale for Curriculum Renewal to EESD
This opening chapter presents the rationale for rapid renewing engineering education within higher education institutions, to equip society with professionals who can address significant 21st Century challenges including climate change, peak oil, ocean acidification and resource scarcity. The chapter begins by setting the global context, citing increasing calls for professionals to address both climate change and sustainable development issues across government, industry and civil society globally. The chapter discusses a number of possible reasons why a major transition to education for sustainable development has not yet occurred. A number of key factors are then presented, which are increasing the pressure on engineering educators to undertake significant and rapid engineering curriculum renewal.

2. Addressing the Time Lag Dilemma in Curriculum Renewal towards EESD
This chapter presents the case for engineering departments to undertake rapid curriculum renewal towards engineering education for sustainable development (EESD), to minimise their risk exposure to rapidly shifting markets, regulations and accreditation. The chapter begins by highlighting the complexity of environmental systems, including the non-linear impacts that can result from exceeding environmental thresholds, and the current critical state of significant global environmental systems (this is not an exhaustive coverage of the issues and references will be provided for more detail). Examples are provided where society has moved from denial of the issues, to action. The chapter then introduces and discusses the significant issue of the ‘time lag dilemma’ now facing engineering educators producing graduates capable of addressing complex issues such as remedying greenhouse gas emissions, temperature rise and sea level rise in the very limited 10 – 20 year timeframe asserted by the scientific community. The chapter argues that while progress in embedding sustainability within engineering education in general has generally been ad hoc and non-systemic in the past, there are a number of emerging common elements of success that can be considered in strategically and systematically renewing curriculum at the Engineering Department level. These ‘elements of rapid curriculum renewal’ are introduced and underpin the rest of the novella chapters.

3. Awareness Raising and Developing a Common Understanding (Elements 1 and 2)
This chapter presents the important preparatory role of awareness raising activities amongst staff and students, with regard to the changing role of the engineering profession and engineering education. The chapter introduces several examples of society reconsidering what development should look like, towards sustainable development that meets current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It discusses how this shift in mindset within engineering practice can be immediately reflected in the attributes that define an engineering graduate who can address 21st Century challenges.

4. A Process for Identifying and Mapping Graduate Attributes (Element 3)
This chapter discusses the strategic role that reviewing and mapping graduate attributes for a given program can play, in informing and streamlining rapid curriculum renewal once key staff understand the need for and basic context of engineering education for sustainable development. The chapter presents a non-confrontational, collaborative process which can be used to quickly define a set of graduate attributes for a program that incorporate sustainability competencies, using examples from a university and an industry training initiative facilitated by the authors as part of their action research initiatives.

5. Education for Sustainable Development (E4SD) Curriculum Audit (Element 4)
This chapter discusses a curriculum desktop diagnostic tool called the ‘Education for Sustainable Development (E4SD) Curriculum Audit’ as a key element of rapid curriculum renewal in higher education. The chapter begins by setting the context for a sustainability audit, within the so called ‘time-lag dilemma’ facing higher education as presented in Chapter 2. The chapter then outlines the non-confrontational and collaborative audit process that can provide a systematic and risk management approach to embedding sustainability within engineering curriculum. It presents two case studies of audits that have been completed by the authors; on an undergraduate engineering course in Australia, and from a similar audit process undertaken in New Zealand. The chapter concludes with suggestions for facilitating the audit and supporting the implementation of audit recommendations.

6. Niche Degrees, Flagship or Integration? (Element 5)
This chapter discusses the advantages and challenges of developing and offering niche degrees, flagship courses and fully integrated programs. The chapter begins by acknowledging that there is no ‘one-model’ option for rapidly embed sustainability into engineering curriculum, given the numerous variables for each department with regard to issues such as university commitment, funding, resourcing, expertise, and student and employer demands. However, a department can consider the merits of several emerging curriculum renewal strategies in formulating its own strategy for curriculum renewal. The resultant strategy will then likely be a combination of the most relevant parts of a range of strategies, framed in a way that is suited to the department’s institutional, geographic, financial, political, social and cultural context. The chapter provides examples of (and provides full references for) academically rigorous and freely available curriculum renewal resources from around the world which can support the department’s strategy.

7. Opportunities with Outreach and Bridging (Element 6)
This chapter discusses the role of outreach and bridging (recruitment/professional development), as a strategic way for departments to raise awareness within the local community and potential student market, regarding the improved program offerings. The chapter is framed by several key considerations related to bridging opportunities with Industry and Government, bridging in undergraduate and postgraduate education, and bridging and outreach opportunities with high schools and the community.

8. Campus Integration: Walking the Talk (Element 7)
This chapter discusses the opportunities for curriculum renewal to take place within the larger context of greening campus initiatives. It begins by discussing emerging leadership from the academic sector with regard to addressing climate change and walking the talk with respect to sustainable development. It then discusses the importance of formal learning experiences while students are on campus, to develop such knowledge and skills. With many future leaders spending time on higher education campuses, campus conservation efforts that involve students can yield extraordinary educational dividends for the future. In a professional environment where faculty may not have recent industry experience, on-campus initiatives can also provide faculty with practical experience in their subject matter. It is also beneficial for students to use real projects to practice what they have learnt. The chapter concludes by presenting a number of examples from universities around the world who are attempting to integrate formal student learning with greening campus operations.

9. State of Engineering Education for Sustainable Development: Case Study of an Australian Survey of Energy Efficiency Education in Engineering
The previous chapters have focused on a number of elements of rapid curriculum renewal that can accelerate the transition to engineering education for sustainable development (EESD). This chapter considers the role of surveys in tracking the progress of higher education institutions in improving their performance towards EESD. It begins by summarising the results of recent key European surveys on the extent to which EESD is embedded in curriculum, which demonstrate that a transition is underway, but not significantly progressed. The chapter then presents a case study of a recent major survey in Australia which supports the European findings in the sub-topic of energy efficiency education. Drawing on results from a Lecturer and Student Questionnaire, the chapter focuses on: 1) the location of content in engineering programs; 2) the level of integration of topical issues in energy efficiency; 3) the level of student exposure to content; 4) perceived barriers and benefits to curriculum renewal; and 5) identified needs for improving the extent of energy efficiency in engineering education.

Lead Authors and Editors:
- Ms Cheryl Desha, Education Director, The Natural Edge Project (hosted by Griffith University and the Australian National University); Lecturer, School of Engineering, Griffith University.

- Mr. Karlson ‘Charlie’ Hargroves, Director, The Natural Edge Project (hosted by Griffith University and the Australian National University); Research Fellow, Science, Engineering, Environment and Technology Group, Griffith University.

- Dr Michael Smith, Research Director, The Natural Edge Project (hosted by Griffith University and the Australian National University); Research Fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University (Ch.2)

- Ms Julia Lamborn, Director Industry Liaison, Program Coordinator Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Industrial Sciences, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia; and National Deputy Chair, College of Environmental Engineers, Engineers Australia (Ch.3)

- Professor Juliet Roper, Professor, Associate Dean Sustainability, Waikato Management School, Waikato University, New Zealand; Founder and Director, Asia Pacific Academy of Business in Society (APABIS); and Board Member, International Communication Association (ICA) (Ch.4)

- Dr Amanda Graham, Director, Education Office, MIT Energy Initiative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Ch.5)

- Associate Professor Roger G Hadgraft, Associate Professor, Director (Engineering Learning Unit), School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne; and President (2008), Australasian Association for Engineering Education (A2E2) (Ch.5)

Dr Esat Alpay, Imperial College, UK (Ch.1); Professor Martin Betts, Queensland University of Technology, Australia (Ch.1,5); Associate Professor Gary Codner, Monash University, Australia (Ch.4); Dr Didac Ferrer-Balas, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain (Ch.1,2); Dr Amanda Graham, MIT, US (Ch.6); Ms Michelle Grant, ETHsustainability, Switzerland (Ch.1,5); Professor Doug Hargreaves, Queensland University of Technology, Australia (Ch.5);Professor Kwi-Gon Kim, Soul National University, Korea (Ch.5); Mr David Singleton, Global Infrastructure Business, and Corporate Sustainability, ARUP (Ch.1); Professor Mino Takashi, Tokyo University, and Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S), Japan (Ch.5); Professor Wu Zhiqiang, Tongji University, China.

Peer Reviewers:
- A double-blind peer review was undertaken by the IJSHE Editorial Board (Ch.1-6);
- Dr Azizan Zainal Abidin, Petronas University, Malaysia (Ch.1);
- Dr Esat Alpay, Imperial College, UK (Ch.1);
- Professor Adisa Azapagic, University of Manchester, UK (Ch.5);
- Professor Martin Betts, Queensland University of Technology, Australia (Ch.1,5);
- Dr Carol Boyle, University of Auckland, New Zealand (Ch.1,3);
- Dr Martin Bremer, Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico (Ch.1);
- Mr Wynn Calder, Director, Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, (Ch.1);
- Mr Tom Connor, KBR (Ch.5);
- Professor Neil Dempster, Griffith University, Australia (Ch.1,2);
- Ms Elizabeth Ellis, Griffith University Business School, Australia (Ch.4);
- Dr Didac Ferrer-Balas, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain (Ch.1,2);
- Professor John Fien, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia (Ch.1-6);
- Dr Amanda Graham, MIT, USA (Ch.6);
- Mr Barry Grear, President, World Federation of Engineering Organisations (Ch.1,2);
- Professor Doug Hargreaves, Queensland University of Technology, Australia (Ch.5);
- Professor Jan Harmsen, Shell and University of Groningen, Austria (Ch.1);
- Ms Chandler Hatton, Delft University of Technology (masters student), Netherlands (Ch.1);
- Professor Don Huisingh, Chief Editor Journal of Cleaner Production; University of Tennessee (Ch.1,2);
- Professor Francisco Lozano-Garcia, University of Monterrey, Mexico (Ch.4);
- Dr Karel Mulder, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands (Ch.1,2);
- Dr James Newell, Rowan University, America (Ch.2,5);
- Professor Ned Pankhurst, Griffith University, Australia (Ch.2,4);
- Dr Euan Nichols, Victoria University, Australia (Ch.5);
- Dr Margarita Pavlova, Griffith University, Australia (Ch.4);
- Professor Michael Powell, Griffith University, Australia (Ch.4);
- Professor Yi Qian, Tsinghua University, China, and Member, Chinese Academy of Engineering (Ch.2);
- Ms Milena Ràfols, Polytechnic University of Catalunya, Spain (Ch.4);
- Dr Debra Rowe, President, U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development (Ch.1,2);
- Dr Mariano Savelski, Rowan University, America (Ch.5);
- Associate Professor Magdalena Svanström, Chalmers University of Technology (Ch.1,2)
- Mr Fabian Sack, Manager Environment and Sustainability, Downer EDI (Ch.2);
- Dr Luis Serra, University of Zaragoza, Spain (Ch.5);
- (the late) Mr Hisham Shabiby, Vice President, World Federation of Engineering Organisations (Ch.2);
- Mr David Singleton, Global Infrastructure Business, and Corporate Sustainability, ARUP (Ch.1);
- Mr Niek Stutje, Delft University of Technology (masters student) (Ch.2,5);
- Professor David Thiel, Griffith University, Australia (Ch.1-6).

Peer Review Workshops
- Workshop participants on ‘Elements of Curriculum Renewal to Embed Sustainability into Engineering Education’ at the 2007 International Conference on Engineering Education and Research, Melbourne.
- Workshop participants on ‘Emerging Engineering Education Curriculum for Sustainable Development’ at the Australasian Association of Engineering Education Conference, Melbourne.
- Workshop participants on ‘Accelerating Curriculum Renewal - Behaviours, Barriers and Benefits’ at the 2008 Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Conference (EESD08).