Sustainability included in revised higher education Quality Code for the first time

28th June 2024

EAUC welcomes the 2024 revision of the QAA’s UK Quality Code for Higher Education which was published on 27 June 2024. For the first time it explicitly refers to sustainability as a key component of quality education provision.

This comes just two days after we announced our new strategy, Accelerating Ambition and Impact, which has a renewed focus on systems change. The inclusion of sustainability within the Quality Code takes us a step closer towards achieving our fourth strategic goal – for the systems and frameworks that shape post-16 education to be promoting, driving and embedding sustainability action so that it becomes part of ‘business as usual’.

The new Quality Code supplements the 2021 Guidance on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD, also known as Learning for Sustainability) that provides advice and support on curriculum design, as well as teaching, learning and assessment approaches. It’s a widely used resource that EAUC members contributed to in both its first and second iteration.

In previous iterations of the Code, sustainability was absent. The inclusion of sustainability in the Code reinforces that ESD is a critical part of quality education. This signals that institutions’ quality management should give due consideration to the sustainability agenda as part of a holistic, whole organisation approach.

Last month, EAUC members and fellows were invited to discuss the opportunities and implications of a revised Quality Code. Many participants shared examples of how their institutions are adapting their academic quality work to drive sustainability and ESD, some of which have come about due to QAA collaborative project funding. EAUC submitted a response to the QAA’s final round of consultations. Many of our recommendations and requests have been included in the final draft.

Charlotte Bonner, our Chief Executive, says:

“With this revision, QAA has shown strong leadership: encouraging a shift from pockets of effective ESD practice within academic standards and quality work, to a more widespread adoption of these practices, ‘raising the bar’ across the country, and beyond. We commend them for their solid work in this field.
EAUC will continue to seek opportunities to work with the QAA and other organisations across the post-16 education sector to help us achieve our vision of a sector that creates a world with sustainability at its heart.”

In the new quality code, institutions are encouraged to: QAA is planning the publication of advice and guidance to sit alongside the Quality Code from September 2024. This will offer further details to enable providers to use the Quality Code and its key principles in their unique contexts. EAUC is encouraging those with ESD expertise to consider applying for the QAA working groups to ensure sustainability continues to be an explicit and supported theme throughout this work.