New article: Communicating the sustainability message in higher education institutions

October 3, 2011

A. Djordjevic and D.R.E. Cotton, “Communicating the sustainability message in higher education institutions,” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 12 (2011): 381-394. Available from

This paper from the most recent edition of the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, provides a poignant illustration of the challenges faced by those promoting sustainability across their university.

Even in an institution known for its commitment to sustainability where (presumably) senior management buys into the vision, barriers remain:

  • Not seen as relevant to individual/ subject area
  • About recycling/ estates/ printing on both sides of the paper
  • Senior management enthusiasm/ support can be interpreted as ‘an agenda’ (‘agenda’ never seems to be viewed positively when used of senior management)
  • Different views about what ‘sustainability’/ sustainable development means
  • Lack of dialogue/ too much communication is electronic
  • Attempted ownership by one discipline/ department

The authors’ recommendations can be found by reading the full paper (!)

Leadership and role-play: A few thoughts on the LLAS Head of Departments’ event.

September 15, 2011

Our first event of the ‘new LLAS’, Thriving in the New World of Higher Education: a workshop for heads of department and leaders in languages, linguistics and area studies took place yesterday. We had an overview on the state of Modern Languages in the UK from Jim Coleman (Open University and Chair of UCML) and Pam Moores talked about the resources developed as part of Shaping the Future, a project set up in response to Michael Worton’s report into Modern Languages in English universities. Our Director Mike Kelly had some good tips on managing relationships with senior managers in the university, and on the importance of understanding your university’s mission and making sure you know who you should go to for what.


My own contribution was in the form of role-play exercise in which participants ‘played’ a Head of Languages meeting her/his Dean to discuss either a faculty reorganisation or a curriculum change programme. I enjoy role-play as a way of learning, but I realise that not everyone does. However, it seemed that most people enjoyed the exercise and benefitted putting themselves in the position of another person. Some of our HoD’s are very good actors it seems.

As the author of the role-play scenarios, it was interesting to observe the numerous directions in which a situation can play out. The briefs for each role included a section entitled ‘What is on your mind’. It was interesting to see the ways in which people used or did not use this information to their advantage (some of the items were put in as deliberate distractions, e.g. your feelings about other people). I will write more about using role-play in this context at a later date.

For me the key lesson from this event is on the importance of working relationships. In these uncertain times for higher education, how we manage our relationships is more important than ever.