Currently one of the challenges faced by Higher Education Institutions worldwide is the systematic incorporation of knowledge, practices, competencies and approaches to education from the perspective of sustainability in all their plans and study programs. The challenge not only involves the transmission and teaching of new knowledge to students at all educational levels, but the construction and incorporation of new values, skills and ways of understanding the world, as well as their relationships and interconnections at all scales and dimensions . This new challenge involves forming first level human resources, endowed with extensive knowledge of the frontier, capable of understanding their reality and improving it under the sustainability approach.
Due to the above, quality and sustainable education was included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the United Nations (UN), as a fundamental element on which it is possible to improve the quality of life of people and ensure an integral and harmonious development with the environment, where the teaching staff plays a fundamental role, since it depends on detonating the processes of reflection and internalization of the paradigm of sustainability in students.
In this framework, the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon promotes cross-cutting policies and strategies to incorporate sustainability into all its activities, assuming the responsibility of promoting a change in behavior among the members that make up the university community, especially teachers and students with In order to move towards a sustainable future, in addition to promoting the incorporation of the perspective and environmental criteria in its curricular system. In the year of 2014, the University Academy for Sustainable Development (AUDS) emerged, a space for collaboration, discussion and analysis composed of teaching staff from all the faculties of the UANL, which aims to establish links within the academic community that perform research, teaching and dissemination activities in the field of sustainability, regardless of their study discipline, under a community approach, to facilitate communication, stimulate research, teaching, dissemination and exchange of knowledge and innovation, with the purpose of moving towards the creation of an informed network of the activities of their peers in the field of sustainability and the promotion of teamwork within the formal and non-formal educational environment.
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.
Currently the UANL is composed of 26 faculties, 29 baccalaureate schools, 38 research centers, institutes of science, culture and art. Its academic staff is made up of 6,928 teachers, of whom 805 are affiliated to the SNI-CONACYT National System of Researchers, and it has an educational offer made up of 309 educational programs: 40 at the high school level; 1 of university superior technician, 78 of superior level and 190 of postgraduate, of which 49 are accredited internationally: 38 at the undergraduate level and 11 graduate and has 6 university campuses (University City, Agricultural Sciences, Health Sciences, Mederos , Linares, and Sabinas Hidalgo) and has an institutional presence in 34 of the 51 municipalities that make up the state of Nuevo León.
In recent years, the UANL has experienced a growing academic activity around sustainability, reflected in the implementation of various actions, including the completion of courses, publications, projects and events of undergraduate and graduate related to Sustainability:
- 3,123 courses related to sustainability for undergraduate levels
- 1,676 annual publications
- 1,171 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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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
A first step to determine the baseline of sustainability issues in the university curricula was to conduct the Diagnosis on the incorporation of the topic on sustainable development in the University Curriculum, which yielded the following results, which reflect the commitment of the UANL for train professionals under the paradigm of sustainability: out of a total of 6,613 Learning Units taught in the 78 bachelor’s degrees taught in the 26 faculties that are part of the UANL, 3,123 (47%) are linked to issues related to sustainability, which 1,351 correspond to social issues, 1,150 to environmental and 622 to economic. And during the last three years the number of Learning Units linked to sustainability has been increasing as shown in the following graph.