1st Edition

Good Education in a Fragile World The Value of a Collaborative and Contextualised Approach to Sustainability in Higher Education

Edited By Alan Bainbridge, Nicola Kemp Copyright 2024
    224 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This edited collection aims to provoke discussion around the most important question for contemporary higher education – what kind of education (in terms of purpose, pedagogy and policy) is needed to restore the health and wellbeing of the planet and ourselves now and for generations to come? The book contains contributions from colleagues at a single UK University, internationally recognised for its approach to sustainability education.

    Introducing a conceptual framework called the ‘Paradox Model’, the book explores the tensions that underpin the challenge of developing sustainability in higher education in the 21st century. It asks probing questions about the purpose of higher education in the 21st century given growing concerns in relation to planetary safety and justice and calls for a rethinking of educational purpose.  It draws upon the theory and practice of education and explores how these can develop an understanding of sustainability pedagogies in practice. Finally, it delivers thought-provoking discussion on what constitutes a ‘good’ higher education that meets the needs of a world in crisis.  Drawing on a planetary health lens, the book concludes with a ‘manifesto’ that brings together the key insights from the contributing authors.

    This will be an engaging volume for academics and educators from a wide range of disciplines in higher educational settings interested in translating sustainability theory into educational practice.


    Poems and Provocations

    Victoria Field

    Chapter 1. Introduction: Navigating Educational Tensions: The Paradox Model

    Nicola Kemp and Alan Bainbridge


    Victoria Field


    Part 1: Rethinking Educational Purpose


    Chapter 2. ‘Swallowing a World’: Reflections on Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education

    Zulfi Ali

    Chapter 3. Education for Life

    Simon Wilson

    Chapter 4. Educating for the Future in the Humanities: Passion, Utility and Student Perspectives of Employability in Higher Education

    Claire Bartram and Chiara Hewer

    Chapter 5. A Fragile Education for a Good World: ‘Kenosis’ and Self-giving in Teaching for Sustainability and Change

    Ivan P. Khovacs

    Begins with a Sigh

    Victoria Field


    Part 2: Pedagogies of (Re)connection

    Chapter 6. A Sense of Beauty in Belonging to the Whole

    Tansy Watts

    Chapter 7. Developing Sustainability Education Through Small-Scale Interventions

    Stephen Scoffham

    Chapter 8. Walking Towards Embodied Understanding

    Sonia Overall

    Chapter 9.  Entanglements: ‘Story Telling for Earthly Survival’

    Diane Heath and Peter Vujakovic

    Chapter 10. Understanding Sustainability Pedagogy in Practice

    John-Paul Riordan

    The Tangled Bank

    Victoria Field


    Part 3: (Higher) Education as if the World Mattered

    Chapter 11. Wilding Higher Education: From Monoculture to Messy Margins

    Alan Bainbridge

    Chapter 12. Researching “Education for Sustainability”: Undergraduate Trainees Join the Dots

    Alan Pagden

    Chapter 13. What We Must Do Now: The Response(ability) of Universities to the Global Crises

    Nicola Kemp 

    Kissing the Earth

    Victoria Field

    Chapter 14. Good (Higher) Education in a Fragile World

    Nicola Kemp and Alan Bainbridge


    Victoria Field


    Alan Bainbridge is Reader in Education at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and Visiting Reader in Education and Sustainability at Canterbury Christ Church University. 

    Nicola Kemp is Reader in Education for Sustainable Futures at Canterbury Christ Church University.

    “This book offers a wide-ranging and timely critique of how higher education is tackling the existential planetary crises facing humanity. It offers both complementary and contradictory insights on how key academics within a single university in the UK view progress, policy, and practice in implementing sustainability within higher education. What comes across clearly and urgently is the need for complementary and interdisciplinary based action across all sections of the higher education curriculum, and the book highlights how a critical learning transformation is needed in teaching practice and approaches to experiential learning in our universities. Otherwise, how can these centres of higher learning offer what can be categorised as a “good education?”

    Stephen Martin, Honorary Professor in Learning for Sustainability at the Universities of Worcester and Nottingham, UK

    “We know that students at university today want to learn more about sustainability, and that they want it to be integrated into their subjects. This book offers inspiring examples of practice from different disciplines that demonstrate what good quality, integrated sustainability education can look like. It addresses key questions about the purpose of education and how transformative education can lead students to take action for social and environmental justice.”

    Jamie Agombar, Executive Director, SOS-UK

     “This is not your average textbook.  One could describe it as a love letter to the paradox of sustainability education, calling out those who treat it as a bolt on to students’ higher education experience.  At its heart, this book is a collection of very personal perspectives of what ‘good’ education means to and how it is expressed by dedicated academics at Canterbury Christ Church University who are striving to ensure that their students’ experiences of higher education teaching and learning are purposeful.  What is abundantly clear is the devotion and passion these individuals have, and they offer many wise words and share valuable concepts.  A valuable read for both academics, as well as anyone who wants to better explore issues around the transformative potential of higher education as well as the ‘radical reimagining’ of the University.”

    Carolyn Hayles, Professor of Environmental and Sustainable Design for the Built Environment, Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK


    “This book adeptly illustrates the complexity of the interplay between sustainability and education, contextualised within one university. It curates space to explore and reflect multiple, at times opposing, perspectives, transparently inviting the reader to relate, agree, disagree, and wonder. Impressively the collection manages to neither be prescriptive nor too general. It stimulates personal and professional reflection through its overarching paradox model with integrated examples of practice into theory. An inspiring read for practitioners at universities to deepen their understanding and practice of teaching in the 21st century.”

    Kathrin Möbius, EAUC - The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, UK

    "Bainbridge and Kemp, alongside a diverse collective of educators with multiple perspectives, offer a timely and pertinent book as well as a supportive guide to HE’s crucial transitional task to ‘good’ sustainability education embedded in sound practice. In courageously considering myriad concepts within this highly complex area, the book addresses issues often avoided for being too contentious and consequently too difficult. Tackling these issues is essential and through the authors’ adoption of the Paradox Model, they succeed in provoking reaction and encouraging the reader to consider alternative approaches to adaptation. As a teacher educator in Higher Education, this book will provide a constant source of provocation and support now and well into the future." 

    Tessa Willy, Deputy Programme Lead - Primary PGCE, Institute for Education, UK

    “Taking a whole organisation approach to education for sustainable development is no small feat, indeed it’s an area which many universities find challenging. There is a braveness to the narrative this book presents. The authors and editors tell an honest story of the experiences at their institution - the highs and lows, the disagreements, and the contradictions inherent within our higher education ecosystem – alongside insights as to how these are navigated by academics, support staff and students. There’s contrast in the ways different contributors frame the challenge: sometimes there’s a poetic lyricism, at other times a blunt, stark call to action. But throughout there’s authenticity, kindness and integrity, deep reflection, an invite for the same from the reader, and practical examples of change making. It’s a valuable and welcome contribution to the dialogue on sustainability in education.”

    Charlotte Bonner, CEO of the EAUC, The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education