Introduction to Learning for Sustainability

Explore you own attitudes and perspectives on sustainability and learning

Learning for Sustainability from Summer School UoE on Vimeo.

That in the relatively brief period that Homo sapiens has been the dominant species on the planet we have had a dramatic impact on the fabric and functions of the planet is irrefutable, as is the evidence that this is leading to further and perhaps irreversible effects on planetary systems and climate, loss of biodiversity, ecological impacts of manufactured chemicals, inequality, and related concerns of human well-being and economic stability.

This course aims to critique aspects of the scientific evidence and social context of the above situation and our responses to it. In so doing participants will consider educational responses to the contested concept of ‘sustainability’. This will involve participants considering the breadth and complexity of concepts of ‘sustainability’, and necessarily challenging and partially re-grounding their present understandings and practices by comparing these with the internationally diverse set of practices that sail beneath the ‘flag of convenience’ that is "Learning for Sustainability", "Education for Sustainable Development" and their variants.

The ways in which theory and policy inform practice is a dominant theme of the course. This is reflected in the teaching and, in particular, the three forms of assessment – all of which are inter-linked. The presentation and the essay both require students to draw on sustainability and learning literature and national / state education policy documents.

An opportunity for formative feed-forward is provided through a tutorial where students can, with the course tutor and classmates, discuss their journal, presentation and assignment.

This course is suitable for anyone with an interest in Learning for Sustainability.  It is not necessary to be enrolled in a teacher training programme.


The University of Edinburgh also runs Postgraduate programme on Learning for Sustainability.

A variety of teaching and learning approaches will be used, including lectures, discussion seminars, workshop tasks and outdoor activities.  In this course, participants will work with and interrogate the breadth and complexity of the policies and practices that are understood to be Learning for Sustainability and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).  Aspects of the course content are driven by students’ exploration of their own attitudes and perspectives on sustainability and learning. 

- Students will be expected to complete relevant readings and assignment tasks in their own study time.

- Students will be expected to keep a personal reflective journal – elements of which they should be prepared to share with their tutor and submit for assessment.

The teaching contact time is 36 hours over three weeks.  This comprises lectures, seminars, workshops and fieldwork.



  1. 25% Formative critical reflection journal (equivalent 1000 words)
  2. 25% Formative presentation session (equivalent 1000 words)
  3. 50% Written assignment (3000 words)

Upon completing this course, students will have developed their understanding and awareness in the following areas:

  • the core concepts underpinning sustainability, with an emphasis on learning for sustainability;
  • the ways in which sustainability issues are innately interdisciplinary and are relevant across the school and university curricula;
  • the roles scientific knowledge plays, or not, in people’s understanding of, and ‘belief’ in, climate change, the need for sustainability, etc.;
  • the theory and practice in organisational change, and its implications for the introduction and development of learning for sustainability in their professional practice;
  • the ways in which global challenges are publicised and previewed and the educational issues relating to learner ‘helplessness’.

The course will also provide each student with the requisite knowledge and skills enabling them to undertake the following range of learning activities:

  • explore and compare international curricula, to critically assess successful approaches to learning for sustainability;
  • critically engage with the concept of ‘learning for sustainability’ to evaluate a range of practices and pedagogical approaches currently used in teaching and learning;
  • examine educational leadership in relation to sustainability;
  • assess the success of the transition from local to global learning contexts.

As course fees and accommodation costs are payable separately, it will not be possible to reduce the tuition fee cost for those students who opt to arrange their own accommodation off-campus.

Tuition Fee

£575 per week


You have a choice of accommodation options for varying prices, dependent on your preferences:

  • Standard Single (catered)
  • Ensuite Single (catered)
  • Self-catered (with shared facilities)

Please note that University of Edinburgh self-catered accommodation is now sold out for August. Additional self-catering rooms close to the Central area are now available via a University accommodation partner.

Full information on accommodation options can be found here

Social Programme

To enhance your experience at the University of Edinburgh Summer School, a variety of social and cultural activities will be organized to allow you to explore and discover the history, traditions and beauty of Scotland whilst meeting people from across the world. Each student can participate in the social and cultural activities which are included in the course fee.  A free gym membership is included as well as a variety of fun and interesting things to do and see in Edinburgh.  Additionally, students can book on to day and weekend tours to explore the rest and best of Scotland (at a discounted rate for Summer School students).

Other costs

Please note you will also need to pay for any essential books on the reading lists provided and any entrance fees for exhibits and other related fees on study visits.