Exploring sustainability themes in engineering accreditation and curricula

Byrne, Edmond, Desha, Cheryl, Fitzpatrick, John J., & Hargroves, Karlson (2013) Exploring sustainability themes in engineering accreditation and curricula. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 14(4), pp. 384-403.

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This paper aims to present key findings from an inquiry into engineering accreditation and curricula renewal. The research attempted to ascertain conceptions of requisite sustainability themes among engineering academics and professionals. The paper also reflects on the potential role of professional engineering institutions (PEIs) in embedding sustainability through their programme accreditation guidelines and wider implications in terms of rapid curricula renewal.


This research comprised an International Engineering Academic Workshop held during the 2010 International Symposium on Engineering Education in Ireland, on “accreditation and sustainable engineering”. This built on the findings of a literature review that was distributed prior to the workshop. Data collection included individual questionnaires administered during the workshop, and notes scribed by workshop participants.


The literature review highlighted a wide range of perspectives across and within engineering disciplines, regarding what sustainability/sustainable development (SD) themes should be incorporated into engineering curricula, and regarding language and terminology. This was also reflected in the workshop discussions. Notwithstanding this diversity, clusters of sustainability themes and priority considerations were distilled from the literature review and workshop. These related to resources, technology, values, ethics, inter- and intra-generational equity, transdisciplinarity, and systems and complex thinking. Themes related to environmental and economic knowledge and skills received less attention by workshop participants than represented in the literature.


This paper provides an appreciation of the diversity of opinion regarding priority sustainability themes for engineering curricula, among a group of self-selected engineering academics who have a common interest in education for SD. It also provides some insights and caveats on how these themes might be rapidly integrated into engineering curricula.

Impact and interest:

11 citations in Scopus
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10 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 69984
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Education for sustainable development, Higher Education, Engineering Education, Curriculum renewal, Engineering accreditation, HERN
DOI: 10.1108/IJSHE-01-2012-0003
ISSN: 1467-6370
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000) > OTHER ENGINEERING (099900) > Engineering not elsewhere classified (099999)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > EDUCATION SYSTEMS (130100) > Higher Education (130103)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development (130202)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Science Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy (130212)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Deposited On: 09 Apr 2014 00:29
Last Modified: 15 May 2014 04:56

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