Author: Onyekachi Nwafor (CEO, KatexPower). 

Topic: Electrification of remote villages. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Energy; Electrical; Mechanical; Environmental. 

Keywords: Sustainability; Social responsibility; Equality, Rural development; Environmental conservation; AHEP; Renewable energy; Electrification; Higher education; Interdisciplinary; Pedagogy. 
Sustainability competency: Anticipatory; Strategic; Integrated problem-solving.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG7 (Affordable and Clean Energy); SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities); SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development; Cross-disciplinarity.

Educational level: Intermediate. 


Learning and teaching notes: 

This case study offers learners an explorative journey through the multifaceted aspects of deploying off-grid renewable solutions, considering practical, ethical, and societal implications. It dwells on themes such as Engineering and Sustainable Development (emphasizing the role of engineering in driving sustainable initiatives) and Engineering Practice (exploring the application of engineering principles in real-world contexts). 

The dilemma in this case is presented in six parts. If desired, a teacher can use Part one in isolation, but Parts two and three develop and complicate the concepts presented in Part one to provide for additional learning. The case study allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and/or activities, as desired.    


Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 


Learning and teaching resources: 



In accordance with a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and statistics provided by the World Bank, approximately 633 million individuals in Africa currently lack access to electricity. This stark reality has significant implications for the remote villages across the continent, where challenges related to energy access persistently impact various aspects of daily life and stall social and economic development. In response to this critical issue, the deployment of off-grid renewable solutions emerges as a promising and sustainable alternative. Such solutions have the potential to not only address the pressing energy gap but also to catalyse development in isolated regions. 

Situated in one of Egypt’s most breathtaking desert landscapes, Siwa holds a position of immense natural heritage importance within Egypt and on a global scale. The region is home to highly endangered species, some of which have restricted distributions found only in Siwa Oasis. Classified as a remote area, a particular community in Siwa Oasis currently relies predominantly on diesel generators for its power needs, as it remains disconnected from the national grid. Moreover, extending the national grid to this location is deemed economically and environmentally impractical, given the long distances and rugged terrain. 

Despite these challenges, Siwa Oasis possesses abundant renewable resources that can serve as the foundation for implementing a reliable, economical, and sustainable energy source. Recognising the environmental significance of the area, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) declared Siwa Oasis as a protected area in 2002. 


Part one: Household energy for Siwa Oasis  

Imagine being an electrical engineer tasked with developing an off-grid, sustainable power solution for Siwa Oasis village. Your goal is to develop a solution that not only addresses the power needs but also is sustainable, ethical, and has a positive impact on the community. The following data may help in developing your solution.   


Data on Household Energy for Siwa Oasis:



  1. Analyse typical household appliances and their power consumption (lighting, refrigeration, pressing Iron).
  2. Simulate daily energy usage patterns using smart meter data.
  3. Identify peak usage times and propose strategies for energy conservation (example LED bulbs, etc)
  4. Calculate appliance power consumption and estimate electricity costs.
  5. Discussion:  

a. How does this situation relate to SDG 7, and why is it essential for sustainable development? 

b. What are the primary and secondary challenges of implementing off-grid solutions in remote villages? 


Part two: Power supply options 

Electricity supply in Siwa Oasis is mainly depends on Diesel Generators, 4 MAN Diesel Generators of 21 MW which are going to be wasted in four years, 2 CAT Diesel Generators of 5.2 MW and 1 MAN Diesel Generator 4 MW for emergency. Compare and contrast various power supply options for the household (renewable vs. fossil fuel). 


  1. Renewable: Focus on solar PV systems, including hands-on activities like solar panel power output measurements and battery sizing calculations. 
  2. Fossil fuel: Briefly discuss diesel generators and their environmental impact. 


The Siwa Oasis community is divided over the choice of power supply options for their households. On one hand, there is a group advocating for a complete shift to renewable energy, emphasising the environmental benefits and long-term sustainability of solar PV systems. On the other hand, there is a faction arguing to continue relying on the existing diesel generators, citing concerns about the reliability and initial costs associated with solar power. The community must decide which power supply option aligns with their values, priorities, and long-term goals for sustainability and energy independence. This decision will not only impact their day-to-day lives but also shape the future of energy use in Siwa Oasis. 


Optional STOP for questions and activities:

  1. Debate: Is it ethical to impose new technologies on communities, even if it’s for perceived improvement of living conditions?
  2. Discussion: How can engineers ensure the sustainability (environmental and operational) of off-grid solutions in remote locations?
  3. Activities: Students to design a basic solar PV system for the household, considering factors like energy demand, solar resource availability, and budget constraints.  


Part three: Community mini-grid via harnessing the desert sun 

Mini-grid systems (sometimes referred to as micro-grids) generally serve several buildings or entire communities. The abundant sunshine in Siwa community makes it ideal for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and based on the load demand of the community, a solar PV mini grid solution will work perfectly. 

Electrical components of a typical PV system can be classified into DC and AC. 


DC components: The electrical connection of solar modules to the inverter constitutes the DC part of a PV installation. Its design requires particular care and reliable components, as there is a risk of significant accidents with high DC voltages and currents, especially due to electric arcs.  

The key DC components are:  


AC components: The equipment installed on the AC side of the inverter depends on the size and voltage class of the grid connection (low-voltage (LV), medium-voltage (MV), or high-voltage (HV) grid). Utility-scale PV plants usually require the following equipment:  




This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Onyekachi Nwafor (CEO, KatexPower). 

Topic: Harmonising economic prosperity with environmental responsibility. 

Tool type: Knowledge. 

Relevant disciplines: Any.  

Keywords: Environmental responsibility; Pedagogy; Economic growth; Ethical awareness, Interdisciplinary; Collaboration; AHEP; Sustainability; Environment; Biodiversity; Local community; Climate change; Higher education. 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving; Strategic; Self-awareness; Normative.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth); SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities); SDG 13 (Climate action). 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development.

Who is this article for? This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who wish to consider how to navigate tradeoffs between economic and environmental sustainability as they apply to engineering. Engaging with this topic will also help to prepare students with the soft skill sets that employers are looking for. 



In the face of the ever-growing need for economic progress and the escalating environmental crises, the engineering profession finds itself at a crossroads. Striking a delicate balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability is no longer an option but an imperative. This article delves into the pivotal role of engineering educators in shaping the mindset of future engineers, offering an expanded educational framework that fosters a generation capable of harmonising economic prosperity with environmental responsibility. 


The uneasy truce:  

Developing nations, with burgeoning populations and aspirations for improved living standards, grapple with the paradox of rapid economic expansion at the expense of environmental degradation. This necessitates a shift in focus for engineering educators, who bear the responsibility of cultivating engineers with a foresighted perspective. Rather than demonising economic growth, the goal is to instill a nuanced understanding of its interdependence with environmental well-being. For example, in developing countries like Brazil, rapid economic expansion driven by industries such as agriculture and logging has resulted in extensive deforestation of the Amazon region. This deforestation not only leads to the loss of valuable biodiversity and ecosystem services but also contributes to climate change through the release of carbon dioxide. Similarly, in industrialised nations, the pursuit of economic growth has often led to the pollution of air, water, and soil, causing adverse health effects for both humans and wildlife. 


Equipping our future stewards: 

To navigate this delicate landscape, educators must move beyond traditional technical expertise, fostering a holistic approach that integrates ethical awareness, interdisciplinary collaboration, localised solutions, and a commitment to lifelong learning. 

1. Ethical awareness: One potential counterargument to the expanded educational framework may be that the focus of engineering education should remain solely on technical expertise, with the assumption that ethical considerations and interdisciplinary collaboration can be addressed later in a professional context. However, research has shown that integrating ethical awareness and interdisciplinary collaboration early in engineering education not only enhances problem-solving skills but also cultivates a sense of responsibility and long-term thinking among future engineers. 

2. Holistic thinking: Research has shown that interdisciplinary collaboration between engineering and social science disciplines can lead to more effective and sustainable solutions. For instance, a study conducted by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) found that by involving sociologists and anthropologists in the design and implementation of water infrastructure projects in rural communities, engineers were able to address cultural preferences and local knowledge, resulting in higher acceptance and long-term maintenance of the infrastructure. Similarly, a case study of a renewable energy project in Germany demonstrated how taking into account the geographic nuances of the region, such as wind patterns and solar radiation, led to more efficient and cost-effective energy solutions. Presently, Germany boasts the world’s fourth-largest installed solar capacity and ranks amongst the top wind energy producers.  

3. Localised solutions: Students must be required to consider the social, cultural, and geographic nuances of each project. This means moving away from one-size-fits-all approaches and towards an emphasis on the importance of context-specific solutions. This ensures that interventions are not only technologically sound but also culturally appropriate and responsive to local needs, fostering sustainability at both the project and community levels. 

4. Lifelong learning: Empower students with the skills to stay abreast of emerging technologies, ethical frameworks, and policy landscapes. Recognise that the landscape of sustainability is dynamic and ever evolving. Foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptability to ensure that graduates remain true stewards of a sustainable future, equipped to navigate evolving challenges throughout their careers. 


A compass for progress:  

By integrating these principles into engineering curricula, educators can provide students with a moral and intellectual compass—an ethical framework guiding decisions toward a future where economic progress and environmental responsibility coexist harmoniously. Achieving this paradigm shift will require collaboration, innovation, and a willingness to challenge the status quo. However, the rewards are immeasurable: a generation of engineers empowered to build a world where prosperity thrives alongside a healthy planet—a testament to the true potential of the engineering profession. 

Engineering teachers can raise a generation of engineers who can balance economic growth with environmental responsibility by embracing a broader educational framework that includes ethical awareness, cross-disciplinary collaboration, localised solutions, and a commitment to lifelong learning. Through the adoption of these principles, engineering curricula can provide students with a moral and intellectual compass, guiding them toward a future where economic progress and environmental sustainability coexist harmoniously. 



International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) (2023).Pathways to Carbon Neutrality: Global Trends and Solutions’, Chapter 3. 

Sharma, P. (2022) ‘The Ethical Imperative in Sustainable Engineering Design’, Chapter 5. 

United Nations (2021) ‘Goal 13: Climate Action. In Sustainable Development Goals: Achieving a Balance between Growth and Sustainability’. (pp. 120-135). 

World Bank (2022) ‘Renewable Energy in Developing Nations: Prospects and Challenges’, pp.10-15. 

World Bank Group (2023) Cleaner cities, Brighter Futures: Ethiopia’s journey in urban sanitation, World Bank. (Accessed: 05 February 2024).   


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 

To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Professor Manuela Rosa (Algarve University, Institute of Engineering). 

Topic: Engineering for ecological sustainability. 

Tool type: Knowledge. 

Relevant disciplines: Any. 

Keywords: Curriculum; Engineering professionals; Ecology; Ecosystem services; Natural resources; Interdisciplinary; Biodiversity; Water and sanitation; Climate change; AHEP; Sustainability; Higher education; Pedagogy. 
Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Collaboration; Integrated problem-solving; Self-awareness; Normative.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37. 

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation); SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy); SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production); SDG 14 (Life below water). 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Cross-disciplinarity; Active pedagogies and mindset development.

Who is this article for? This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who wish to embed environmental and ecological sustainability into the engineering curriculum or design modules. Engaging with this topic will also help to prepare students with the soft skill sets that employers are looking for. 



Engineering has always responded to the societal challenges of humanity, contributing to its progress and economic development. However, the synergetic effects of fossil-based economic growth together with large-scale engineering projects have also caused great pressures on natural resources and ecosystems leading to over-exploitation and degradation. In consequence, in the last decades, a multidimensional perspective on sustainability perspective has arisen, and has been acknowledged by social movements, governments and institutions.   

Meanwhile, this assumes deep epistemological changes, requiring holistic and transdisciplinary approaches that must be considered by engineering professionals, establishing communication based on new ways of thinking. There is the need to interweave disciplines, to establish complementary relationships, to create associations in order to root new knowledge, enabling communication between the sciences. In doing so, transdisciplinary science has emerged, i.e. the science that can develop from these communications. It corresponds to a higher stage succeeding the stage of interdisciplinary relationships, which would not only cover interactions or reciprocities between specialised research projects, but would place these relationships within a total system without any firm boundaries between disciplines (Piaget, 1972).  

Currently, the complexity associated with climate change and the uncertainty of the link between global loss of biodiversity and current loss of public health, are demanding innovative knowledge, needing those holistic and transdisciplinary approaches.  Engineering professionals must therefore give additional attention to ecological sustainability. 


The challenges of sustainability: 

The term “sustainability” portrays the quality of maintenance of something which can continue for an indefinite time, such as biological species and ecosystems. Sustainability is based on a dynamic balance between natural and human ecosystems, in order to maintain the diversity, complexity and functions of the ecological systems that support life, while contributing to prosperous and harmonious human development (Costanza, 1997). This strong perspective of sustainability needs to have a prominent place in land use management which must consider the carrying capacity of natural ecosystems.  

Ecological sustainability in particular aims to maintain the earth’s natural potential and the biosphere, its stock of natural resources, atmosphere and hydrosphere, ecosystems and species. Ecosystems should be kept healthy by preserving their “ecological integrity”, i.e. the capacity to maintain the structure and function of its natural communities, which includes biogeochemical cycles.  

Engineering professionals must therefore understand the global limits for water, land, and energy use (contributing to less atmospheric carbon emissions), and preserve other natural resources, such as nutrients or biodiversity. In the technical decision-making process, they need to understand the ecological impacts of big scale projects, such as transportation infrastructures, dams, deforestation, and others. Alongside other professionals, they need to contribute to the restoration, conservation and preservation of ecosystem services, e. g. support services, production services, regulating services and cultural services. These services result in benefits that people and organisations receive from ecosystems and constitute determinants of well-being (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).  

Until now, technical solutions often focused on highly visible man-made structures, many of which stopped or disrupted natural processes. Presently, the importance of regulating natural ecosystem services such as water purification, water supply, erosion and flood control, carbon storage and climate regulation is beginning to be perceived. These are considered as soft engineering tools and must be highlighted by engineering educators and assumed in the practice. 

This ecological mindset would enable solutions that recognise management and restoration of natural ecosystems in order to curb climate change, protect biodiversity, sustain livelihoods and manage rainstorms. Nature-based solutions are a natural climate solution in cities, contributing to the mitigation and adaptation of climate change through green roofs, rain gardens, constructed wetlands that can minimise damaging runoff by absorbing stormwater, reducing flood risks and safeguarding freshwater ecosystems. They are essential in climate refuges for city residents during heatwaves and other extreme climate events. These solutions need specific and new knowledge made by ecologists working with engineers and others, which demands action beyond disciplinary silo, i.e., a transdisciplinary approach.  

Within this context, engineering professionals must consider specific operating principles of sustainability: 

These principles must be considered in engineering education, and require deep changes in teaching, because there is a great difficulty in studying and managing the socio-ecological system according to the Cartesian paradigm which breaks up and separates the parts of a whole. New ecological thinking emphasises holistic approaches, non-linearity, and values focused on preservation, conservation and collaboration (Capra, 1996). The transdisciplinary approach needs dialogic and recursive thinking, which articulates from the whole to the parts and from the parts to the whole, and can only be unchained with the connection of the different fields of knowledge, including knowledge from local communities in specific territories.   

In higher education, engineering students should establish face-to-face contacts with ecology students in order to better understand ecological sustainability and generate empathy on the subject. Engineering students must develop skills of collaboration and inter-cultural communication tools (Caeiro-Rodríguez et al., 2021) that will facilitate face to face workshops with other professionals and enrich learning experiences.  

In the 21st century, beyond the use of technical knowledge to solve problems, engineering professionals need communicational abilities to consider ecological sustainability, requiring networking, cooperating in teams, and working with local communities. Engineering educators must include trans-sectoral and transdisciplinary research and holistic approaches which make clear progress in tackling ecological sustainability. 



The interconnected socio-ecological system must be managed for sustainability by multiple stakeholders.  Engineering professionals need to develop a set of skills and competencies related with the ability to work with other ones (e.g. from the natural sciences) and citizens. Currently, beyond the use of technical knowledge to solve problems, engineers need to consider the sustainable development goals, requiring networking, cooperating in teams, and working with communities through transdisciplinary approaches.  

Education for Sustainable Development is required to empower engineering professionals to adopt strong sustainable actions that simultaneously ensure ecological integrity, economic viability and a just society for the current and future generations. Education is a fundamental tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as recognised in the 2030 Education Agenda, coordinated by UNESCO (2020).  




This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 


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Theme: Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development.

Author: Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers (University of the West of England, Bristol).

Case-study team: Wendy Fowles-Sweet; Maryam Lamere; Prof. Lisa Brodie; Dr Venkat Bakthavatchaalam (University of the West of England, Bristol); Dr Abel Nyamapfene (University College London).

Keywords: Education for Sustainable Development; Climate Emergency; Net Zero; Sustainable Development Goals.

Abstract: The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency, along with all regional councils in the West of England. In order to meet the regional goal of Net-Zero by 2030, sustainability education has now been embedded through all levels of the Engineering Curriculum. Current modules incorporate education for Sustainable Development Goals alongside citizen engagement challenges, where engineers find solutions to real-life problems. All undergraduate engineers also take part in immersive project weeks to develop problem-based learning around the Engineers without Borders international challenges.


Engineering Education for Sustainable Development

The environmental and health impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss are being felt around the world, from record high temperatures, drought, wildfires, extreme flooding, and human health issues (Ripple et al., 2020). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that urgent action is required to mitigate catastrophic impacts for billions of people globally (IPCC, 2022). The UK Government has pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050, with a 78% drop in emissions by 2035 (UK Government, 2021). Following IPCC guidance, regional councils such as Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority, have pledged to reach Net Zero at an earlier date of 2030 (Bristol City Council, 2019). In parallel, UWE Bristol has embedded this target within its strategic plan (UWE Bristol, 2019), and also leads the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), an Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (UWE Bristol, 2021b). All UWE Bristol programmes are expected to embed the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within curricula (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2021), so that higher education degrees prepare graduates for working sustainably (Gough, 2021).

Bourn and Neal (2008) draw the link between global sustainability issues and engineering, with the potential to tackle complex sustainability challenges such as climate change, resource limitations, and extreme poverty. The SDGs are therefore particularly relevant to engineers, showing the connections between social, environmental, and economic actions needed to ensure humanitarian development, whilst also staying within planetary boundaries to support life on earth (Ramirez-Mendoza et al., 2020). The engineering sector is thus obligated to achieve global emissions targets, with the work of engineers being essential to enable the societal and technological change to reach net zero carbon emissions (Fogg-Rogers, L., Richardson, D., Bakthavatchaalam, V., Yeomans et al., 2021).

Systems thinking and solution-finding are critical engineering habits of mind (Lucas et al., 2014), and so introducing genuine sustainability problems provides a solid foregrounding for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in engineering. Indeed, consideration for the environment, health, safety, and social wellbeing are enshrined in the UK Specification for Professional Engineers (UK SPEC) (Engineering Council, 2021). ‘Real-world’ problems can therefore inspire and motivate learners (Loyens et al., 2015), while the use of group projects is considered to facilitate collaborative learning (Kokotsaki et al., 2016). This aligns with recommendations for creating sustainability-literate graduates published by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA and Advance HE, 2021) which emphasise the need for graduates to: (1) understand what the concept of environmental stewardship means for their discipline and their professional and personal lives; (2) think about issues of social justice, ethics and wellbeing, and how these relate to ecological and economic factors; and (3) develop a future-facing outlook by learning to think about the consequences of actions, and how systems and societies can be adapted to ensure sustainable futures (QAA & HEA, 2014). These competencies are difficult to teach, and instead need to developed by the learners themselves based on experience and reflection, through a student-centred, interdisciplinary, team-teaching design (Lamere et al., 2021).  

The need for engineers to learn about the SDGs and a zero carbon future is therefore necessary and urgent, to ensure that graduates are equipped with the skills needed to address the complex challenges facing the 21st Century.  Lamere et al., (2021)describe how the introduction of sustainability education within the engineering curriculum is typically initiated by individual academics (early adopters) introducing elements of sustainability content within their own course modules. Full curricula refresh in the UWE Bristol engineering curricula from 2018-2020 enabled a more programmatic approach, with inter-module connections being developed, alongside inter-year progression of topics and skills.

This case study explores how UWE Bristol achieved this curriculum change throughout all programmes and created inter-connected project weeks in partnership with regional stakeholders and industry. 

Case Study Methods – Embedding education for sustainable development

The first stage of the curricula transformation was to assess current modules against UK SPEC professional requirements, alongside SDG relevant topics. A departmental-wide mixed methods survey was designed to assess which SDGs were already incorporated, and which teaching methods were being utilized. The survey was emailed out to all staff in 2020, with 27 module leaders responding to highlight pedagogy in 60 modules, covering the engineering topics of: Aerospace; Mechanical and Automotive; Electrical, Electronic, and Robotics; Maths and Statistics; and Engineering Competency.

Two sub-themes were identified: ‘Direct’ and ‘Indirect’ embedding of SDGs; direct being where the engineering designs explicitly reference the SDGs as providing social or environmental solutions, and indirect being where the SDGs are achieved through engineering education e.g. quality education and gender equality. Direct inclusion of the SDGs tended to focus on reducing energy consumption, and reducing weight and waste, such as through improving the efficiency of the machines/designs. Mitigating the impact of climate change through optimal use of energy was also mentioned. The usage of lifecycle analysis was implemented in several courses, especially for composite materials and their recycling. The full analysis of the spread of the SDGs and their incorporation within different degree programmes can seen in Figure 1.


Figure 1 Number of Engineering Modules in which SDGs are Embedded


Project-based learning for civic engagement in engineering

Following this mapping process, the modules were reorganized to produce a holistic development of knowledge and skills across programmes, starting from the first year to the final year of the degree programmes. This Integrated Learning Framework was approved by relevant Professional Bodies and has been rolled out annually since 2020, as new learners enter the refreshed degree programmes at UWE Bristol. The core modules covering SDG concepts explicitly are Engineering Practice 1 and 2 (at Level 1 and 2 of the undergraduate degree programme) and ‘Engineering for Society’ (at Level 3 of the undergraduate degree programme and Masters Level). These modules utilise civic engagement with real-world industry problems, and service learning through engagement with industry, schools, and community groups (Fogg-Rogers et al., 2017).

As well as the module redevelopment, a Project-Based Learning approach has been adopted at department level, with the introduction of dedicated Project Weeks to enable cross-curricula and collaborative working. The Project Weeks draw on the Engineering for People Design Challenge (Engineers without Borders, 2021), which present global scenarios to provide university students with “the opportunity to learn and practice the ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of engineering design”. Critically, the challenges encourage universities to develop partnerships with regional stakeholders and industry, to provide more context for real-world problems and to enable local service learning and community action (Fogg-Rogers et al., 2017).

A collaboration with the innovation company NewIcon enabled the development of a ‘design thinking’ booklet which guides students through the design cycle, in order to develop solutions for the Project Week scenarios (UWE Bristol, 2021a). Furthermore, a partnership with the initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) has enabled students to take part in the Inspire outreach programme (Fogg-Rogers & Laggan, 2022), which brings together STEM Ambassadors and schools to learn about engineering through sustainability focussed activities. The DETI programme is delivered by the National Composites Centre, Centre for Modelling and Simulation, Digital Catapult, UWE Bristol, University of Bristol, and University of Bath, with further industry partners including Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens (DETI, 2021). Industry speakers have contributed to lectures, and regional examples of current real-world problems have been incorporated into assignments and reports, touching on a wide range of sustainability and ethical issues.

Reflections and recommendations for future engineering sustainability education

Students have been surveyed through module feedback surveys, and the project-based learning approach is viewed very positively. Students commented that they enjoyed working on ‘real-world projects’ where they can make a difference locally or globally. However, findings from surveys indicate that students were more inclined towards sustainability topics that were relevant to their subject discipline. For instance, Aerospace Engineering students tended to prefer topics relevant to Aerospace Engineering. A survey of USA engineering students by Wilson (2019) also indicates a link between students’ study discipline and their predilection for certain sustainability topics. This suggests that for sustainability education to be effective, the content coverage should be aligned, or better still, integrated, with the topics that form part of the students’ disciplinary studies.

The integration of sustainable development throughout the curricula has been supported at institutional level, and this has been critical for the widescale roll out. An institution-wide Knowledge Exchange for Sustainability Education (KESE) was created to support staff by providing a platform of knowledge sharing. Within the department, Staff Away days were used to hold sustainability workshops for staff to discuss ESD and the topics of interest to students.  In the initial phase of the mapping exercise, a lack of common understanding amongst staff about ESD in engineering was noted, including what it should include, and whether it is necessary for student engineers to learn about it. During the Integrated Learning Framework development, and possibly alongside growing global awareness of climate change, there has been more acceptance of ESD as an essential part of the engineering curriculum amongst staff and students. Another challenge has been the allocation of teaching workload for sustainability integration. In the initial phases, a small number of committed academics had to put in a lot of time, effort, and dedication to push through with ESD integration. There is now wider support by module leaders and tutors, who all feel capable of delivering some aspects of ESD, which eases the workload.

This case study outlines several methods for integrating ESD within engineering, alongside developing partnership working for regionally relevant real-world project-based learning. A recent study of UK higher education institutions suggests that only a handful of institutions have implemented ESD into their curricula in a systemic manner (Fiselier et al., 2018), which suggests many engineering institutions still need support in this area. However, we believe that the engineering profession has a crucial role to play in ESD alongside climate education and action, particularly to develop graduate engineers with the skills required to work upon 21st Century global challenges. To achieve net zero and a low carbon global economy, everything we make and use will need to be completely re-imagined and re-engineered, which will require close collaboration between academia, industry, and the community. We hope that other engineering educators feel empowered by this case study to act with the required urgency to speed up the global transition to carbon neutrality.


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