Higher Education Institutions are confronting new challenges to incorporate a new approach based on sustainability. This challenge is not only about teaching values, but it is about building new ideas, skills, and worldviews. It is the responsibility of our institution to train human resources, gifted with knowledge, and able to understand their reality based on sustainability.
Quality and Sustainable education are some of the guiding principles proposed by the United Nations. These principles will guide us towards a sustainable development of a better society in harmony with the environment. Professors play a key role to raise awareness in the students about the importance of sustainability.
The Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon incorporates sustainability into all its projects, and assuming the responsibility of encouraging a change of behavior necessary to advance towards a sustainable future. In addition the office promotes the incorporation of viewpoints and environmental criteria onto the curricular system of the University. The University Academy for Sustainable Development (AUDS, for its Spanish name) was created in 2014. An initiative organized under a knowledge network approach to facilitate the interaction between UANL academics that have projects related to sustainability, stimulate research, teaching, and the creation of linkages; disseminate knowledge and innovation; develop environmental management programs within the university schools with the purpose of encouraging teamwork and building a community aware of their peers activities in the field of sustainability.
AUDS operation, which are part of the activities of the Department of Programs for Sustainability, arose from the need for a crosscutting policy so that sustainability is organically integrated into the substantial activities of UANL, mainly into those related to research and postgraduate studies.
In this context, it is of primary importance to support educational work through different teaching tools such as courses, seminars, and update of contents. It is also important to provide support materials to reinforce academic contents under a sustainable viewpoint.
AUDS purpose is not to add new academic contents; on the other hand, its purpose is to redirect academic curricula under a sustainable development approach. Academic staff and researchers work under the principles of: research, reflection, learning, collaboration and initiative.
UANL currently consists of twenty-six colleges, twenty-nine high schools, and thirty-eight research centers and institutes of arts, science, and culture. Its faculty comprises 6,928 professors, of which 696 are also researchers at the National Researcher System (SNI-CONACYT). Our university offers 299 academic programs: sixty-one for the upper intermediate level; three professional technical programs; seventy-seven undergraduate degrees, twenty-nine of these are internationally accredited; and 158 graduate progams, of which eight earned international certification. UANL holds six campuses—Ciudad Universitaria, Ciencias Agropecuarias, Ciencias de la Salud, Mederos, Linares, and Sabinas Hidalgo—and has facilities in thirty-sixe out of the fifty-one Nuevo Leon’s states.
Over the past few years, UANL has experienced an increasing academic activity on sustainability with the implementation of different actions, such as courses, publications, projects, and events for undergraduate and graduate levels:
• 3,105 courses related to sustainability for undergraduate levels
• 554 annual publications
• 1049 annual events
Academic and dissemination events on sustainability
Academic publications on sustainability
Organizational Structure and Operations
The academy is chaired by the UANL President and managed by the Department of Project Development, which is part of the Vice Presidency of Sustainability. It is made up of renowned researchers as well as remarkable full-time and part-time professors from several UANL entities, who possess specialized expertise to guide the different discussion and collaboration lines toward each discipline.
The University Academy for Sustainable Development holds an annual meeting to discuss the progress, strategies, and actions that will be taken by its members and conducts courses, workshops, seminars, and other academic activities to enhance the experience of professors and researchers.
The AUDS is an intra-institutional organization that complements and strengthens the work of faculty, career, and curriculum bodies from UANL schools and research centers. It has the following objectives:
- To generate sustainable development proposals for the substantial activities of UANL.
- To promote the incorporation of sustainability into our university’s teaching: curriculum, course programs, assessment mechanisms, and learning-teaching strategies, among others.
- To encourage continuous professionalization and updating of the academic staff on the topic of sustainability.
Furthermore, the AUDS will work under the following principles:
- Collectivity and collegiality
- Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches
- Integration and Institutional cross-cutting scope
Some of the most notable benefits from belonging to the AUDS are listed below:
- Institutional acknowledgement such as participation in collegiate bodies.
- Free access and participation in training and updating activities organized by the AUDS.
- Support for work publication in specialized areas.
- Active participation in academic communication mechanisms and intra and inter-institutional exchange.
Lines of Work
The AUDS began its operations according to the following lines of work:
- Methodology and innovative materials development for the incorporation of sustainable development in university teaching. Projects introduced in this line of work may include one or more of the following activities:
- Elaboration of monographs, review articles, essays, and others texts to support teaching and the spreading of environmental topics.
- Experimentation with new teaching approaches (problem-based learning, projects method, case analysis method, different modalities of online teaching aids, new methods to evaluate learning, etc.)
- Creation of teaching packages to support sustainability education.
- Development of online multidisciplinary learning to support university teaching and technical training under a ‘learning objects’ approach, which requires:
- Defining a specific topic of sustainable development from the perspective of any profession, discipline, or scientific, technological, or philosophical field.
- Delimitating a topic within a specific area (global, macro regional, national, micro regional, local), as well as defining the intended learning goals of any self-learning audience with previous education.
- Training academic staff on the structuration of learning units.
- Gathering relevant information.
- Data systematization and organization for self-learning purposes.
- Preparation and collegiate review of materials.
- Designing and conducting pilot tests and continuous review of online material.
- Development of research, reflections, and proposals about the incorporation of the sustainable development topic, including the following sections:
- Contextualization, review, planning, and restructuration of the courses’ syllabus.
- Development of panoramic studies on the relevance and applicability of sustainable development in the curricula of UANL graduate and undergraduate degree programs.
Projects carried out by members of the AUDS must adhere to one or several of the described lines of work, without setting back the additional objectives or approaches that each professor considers appropriate to adopt.
UANL Academic programs Diagnosis
In order to include the sustainable approach to UANL academic programs, a diagnosis was conducted. This has shown the following results: a 47% of learning units are related to sustainability topics where 1,338 correspond to social issues, 1,147 environmental, and 620 economic matters. The table below illustrates how the number of learning units related to sustainability has been increasing.