Thursday 28-05-2015 - 11:00
Christina Cooper tells us why Chester Students’ Union decided to sign up to Responsible Futures and work closely with their institution with a view to green their students’ curriculum.
Our Responsible Futures programme works with institutions to embed sustainability into the curriculum of every student in education today with an aim to; embed sustainability into the student learning experience, prepare students for the emerging low-carbon economy and strengthen the relationship between unions and their institutions.
For this edition of the Hot Seat, we caught up with Christina Cooper, Vice President Academic and Welfare at Chester Students’ Union to see how her union was working in tandem with its ‘parent institution’ to green the curriculum.
What made you want to take part in Responsible Futures?
Here at Chester Students’ Union, we have been taking part in lots of green initiatives for years, but nothing as comprehensive as Responsible Futures. We saw it as the next step to take with our university, to really embed sustainability into the day to day lives of our students, which starts with their education.
This pilot provided us with the framework to effectively engage the university in this area and progress to a point we wouldn’t have been able to previously.
What work around sustainability had your students’ union led on before taking part in Responsible Futures?
We had taken part in lots of NUS sustainability initiatives before starting on Responsible Futures such as Green Impact, Student Switch Off and DoNation. We have also run numerous campaigns on recycling and community work such as our annual community clean up where students volunteer to clean up the local area. Our students run a People and Planet society and an allotment.
What changes has Responsible Futures allowed you to make to your curriculums? How has it impacted the student experience?
This year at the University of Chester, we have focused on gaining an in depth understanding of what education for sustainable development (ESD) is already in our curriculum. So we have arranged a piece of research to asses a number of courses across all our eight faculties for their current level of ESD. This is before we start working with course leaders to increase the levels of ESD on their courses.
We have however arranged lot of extracurricular activities for our students to start the process of embedding ESD throughout university life. Our students have engaged brilliantly with all our events and programmes, with many of them volunteering to help out.
Why do you think it’s important to embed sustainability into curriculums?
With the number of people going to university increasing year on year, the academic curriculum is the perfect way to communicate ESD to large numbers in an effective way that will lead to behavioural change. Education is the key to embedding ESD not only in the lives of the students we impact through Responsible Futures but also the people they communicate ESD to as well, which will eventually lead to worldwide society reform in relation to they was we interact with our environment, the population and the economy.
Why should students’ unions be leading on this? Can’t we just leave it to institutions?
I don’t think that students’ unions should be leading on this I believe it should be a collaborative approach between students’ unions and universities. In fact, it is imperative that we join with universities to push this agenda forward. This collaborative approach will ensure that as many students as possible are involved in this behaviour change and more likely to achieve success in the programme.
You can find out more about Chester Students' Union by visiting their website at www.chestersu.com or by following them on Twitter at @ChesterSU.