Education in a warming world: Trends, opportunities and pitfalls for institutes of higher education

Orla Kelly, Sam Illingworth, Fabrizio Butera, Vaille Dawson, Peta White, Mindy Blaise, Pim Martens, Geertje Schuitema, Maud Huynen, Susan Bailey, Sian Cowman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Higher education institutes (HEI) face considerable challenges in navigating how to respond to the escalating and intertwined socio-ecological sustainability crises. In response growing numbers of HEIs are declaring climate emergencies. Further, many dedicated individuals working in the sector are already driving meaningful action through rigorous research, teaching, knowledge sharing, and public engagement. There is a growing consensus that sector-wide change is needed to ensure that aspirational declarations and positive individual actions translate into sustainable and transformative change. This article seeks to contribute to such efforts by illustrating a number of trends, examples, and reflections on how third-level educational institutes can act sustainably. Drawing on Tristan McCowan’s framework we highlight the potential of five strategies HEI could employ to support the creation of a more sustainable future namely, i) innovative approaches to climate change education; ii) research agendas for societal transformations; iii) providing climate change education for professional development; iv) supporting public intellectuals; and iv) investing in whole-systems approaches to greening the campus. The insights are the product of an interdisciplinary working group with members from across Europe, Australia, and the UK. These international examples provide insight and a sense of possibility for future application.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2022


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