Asoc. Prof. Dzintra Ilisko has represented the Institute of Sustainable Education at Daugavpils University in the Erasmus funded project “University Educators for Sustainable Development” (UE4SD) in the Czech capital from October 1-3, 2014. This was the first time all 55 project partners have assembled in one location and discussed discuss progress on the project to date, results of the mapping exercise, project management and administration, hear the perspectives of representatives from all four regional hubs, and discuss next project stages and potential involvement in the CA Conference.
This was a unique chance to network with a large number of experts involved in the sustainability transition of universities and in particular the theme of competences for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). This was the first time higher education representatives and champions of ESD from so many European countries (33), including non-EU states from the Balkans and beyond, will gather together to discuss and shed more light on an area of ESD in higher education that has remained relatively neglected until now. Higher education institutions have a prominent role within the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-14) as they prepare the future generation of professionals, challenge dominant paradigms and produce ground-breaking research. There is evidence that universities and colleges have engaged and influenced policy and practice in the area of sustainability, but progress in reorienting the curriculum in relation to sustainable development has been slow. Dzintra Ilisko also participated at the conference “Education for Sustainability: Building Capacity in Higher Education.” Core issues discussed at this conference: Ensuring a future quality academic practice in higher education that requires institutional structures which support sustainability principles and practice, but also university educators who are motivated and capable of embedding sustainability in their teaching, regardless of the courses they teach. The reality, however, is that research and practice in higher education have primarily focused on student rather than staff competences and learning in the area of sustainability. There are only a few studies which have explored how university educators develop Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) competences through professional development; what strategic concerns they have in relation to ESD; or what ESD means in relation to quality. The other theme was European partnership for ESD transition in higher education. This international Conference is taking place in the year the DESD comes to an end and the Global Action Program on ESD is taking shape. The Conference reviewed major trends and changes in higher education towards sustainability over the last ten years, with an emphasis on whole-of-institution approaches, curriculum change, university educators, ESD competences and quality enhancement. A state of the art report which maps existing ESD professional development opportunities for university educators in Europe will be presented at the event. This report has been developed as part of a newly funded European project entitled University Educators for Sustainable Development (UE4SD) and coordinated by the COPERNICUS Alliance (CA).