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INSPIRE update 

Text from Jane Davidson, Director of INSPIRE at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, as published in the Higher Education Academy online news:

Wales is a country that has had a legislative commitment to have a sustainable development scheme since devolution and the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales in 1999. The Welsh Government’s current scheme. ‘One Wales, One Planet’, published in 2009, makes it clear that Wales should be an exemplar in sustainable development; that a sustainable Wales should become a one planet nation by putting sustainable development at the heart of government: creating a resilient and sustainable economy that lives within its environmental limits and only using our fair share of the earth’s resources to maintain our lifestyles. That commitment is now being taken to a higher level with the Welsh Government’s decision to legislate to embed sustainable development as its central organising principle in all its actions across government and all public bodies. This legislative commitment will be monitored externally by a new independent sustainable development body for Wales following the demise of the UK-wide Sustainable Development Commission.

Trinity Saint David University is a new university created from the amalgamation of Lampeter University and Trinity College, Carmarthen. There will be further amalgamation this coming year with the merger of Trinity Saint David University with the University of Wales this term and with Swansea Metropolitan University by August 2012.

Exciting times bring new opportunities. The new university will be the third largest in Wales. The Vice Chancellor, Professor Medwin Hughes, has made it clear that the new university will put sustainability at the heart of its new strategic plan, permeating all university activities including the curriculum. He described the new University's core vision as "delivering for a sustainable Wales."

To support this development, the University is developing a virtual institute of sustainability, INSPIRE, (Institute for Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness) focused on action and research to drive social, environmental and economic outcomes. INSPIRE will:

  • influence the practice of the current and new institution;
  • support development of the education for sustainable development and global citizenship (ESDGC) agenda in Wales;
  • develop partnerships with other organisations with a similar agenda;
  • support the development of the area as a low carbon region;
  • develop specific sustainability practice in a rural setting; and,
  • develop cross-society exemplars of sustainability in practice.

This is a tremendously exciting agenda. Trinity Saint David University already has two campuses in Carmarthen and Lampeter as well as having over 1000 students in London. The new University, when fully transformed next year, will have an additional campus in Swansea. It will combine, therefore, pre- and post-1992 institutions to give it both traditional REF research capability, as well as more applied research capability. It will host the largest teacher education and training centre in Wales. It will have faculties covering all the disciplines and truly be a 21st century institution with a 21st century agenda. Underpinning all of this will be the commitment to have sustainability at its core in a country which will spend the next two years legislating to define what a sustainable Wales should look like and how to get there.

INSPIRE at Trinity Saint David is already looking to create partnerships with others in the higher education sector in taking this agenda forward. The work with the HEA and other universities on models for the Green Academy has been important and will continue. Work undertaken by the HEA to look at attitudes of first-year students towards sustainability demonstrates unequivocally that the students of today would like to see their institutions take this agenda forward. The importance of the People and Planet green league has been growing each year. Now we see a HEFCE-funded project led by the University of Gloucestershire looking at integrating sustainability into the curriculum and tying sustainable practice to the quality assurance regime.

I feel privileged at this exciting time to be leading INSPIRE at Trinity Saint David University. I look forward to working alongside others on this important and necessary transformational journey.

For more information, please e-mail Jane Davidson.

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