Sustainability Research

Through independent, collaborative and inter-disciplinary research, we provide an intellectual environment in which societal challenges are discussed, solutions sought, and public opinion informed.

Sustainability Research

We undertake research across the full spectrum of academic endeavour, with outcomes that make a positive impact on the local, national and international stage.

Sustainability Research

Research topics include renewable energy, alternative fuels, environmental sustainability, food security, nutrition, public health, international development, the digital economy and much more.

Research Centres & Institutes

The University supports a number of research centres across and within disciplines. Several of these undertake research with a clear and direct impact on aspects of sustainability and social responsibility.

Research Centres and Institutes
  • Aberdeen Institute of Energy
    Launched in September 2013, the Institute was established as a centre of excellence for interdisciplinary research, professional development and education and a one-stop shop for the energy sector. It will be the principle source of information and guidance for those charged with making energy policy, and a symbol of the University‚Äôs commitment to playing a leading role in securing a safe, sustainable energy future for generations to come.
     
  • The Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability (ACES)
    ACES brings together natural and social scientists to carry out inter-disciplinary research on environmental sustainability. This informal network of researchers includes colleagues from the University of Aberdeen, the James Hutton Institute and Robert Gordon University.
  • Centre for Transport Research (CTR)
    CTR acts as the focus for transport research at the University. It specialises in the sustainability of transport systems with emphasis on environment, society and technology.

  • Centre for Global Development
    Originally establuished as the Centre for Sustainable International Development (CSID), the renamed Centre for Global Development aims to raise awareness about a range of international development issues amongst staff and students.
     
  • Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health
    The Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health undertakes research to address some of the most compelling contemporary problems in nutrition. Its research contributes not only to new scientific knowledge, but also to new understanding to underpin Government policies and to inform innovation for industry leading to increased economic growth.
     
  • Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences
    The Institute of Biological & Environmental Sciences (IBES) is the research wing of the School of Biological Sciences, comprising of a number of research initiatives.
Public Engagement

Engaging the public in the outputs of our research is at the heart of institutional research strategy. With an array of initiatives to support and encourage new and established academics to share their research findings, and an ever expanding portfolio of events and public outlets for research engagement, the University's Public Engagement with Research and Researcher Development teams re at the forefront of this endeavour.

Among the most notable outlets for engagement with research is the University's programme of public events, including the popular Community Cafe series and our annual research-led festival. While these events cover all aspects of research, issues such as alternative energy, population growth, public health and environmental sustainability feature prominently in the programme.

 

Curriculum

The main sustainability legacy of the University is the impact of our teaching and research, and the contribution of our graduates as active, global citizens.

In 2013 we approved a policy statement on Sustainability in the Curriculum that summarises our approach to the delivery of a curriculum that achieves those goals.

Curriculum Reform

In 2010, the University set about implementing a major Curriculum Reform (CREF) project.  This followed a substantial consultation about what and how we should teach in the 21st century, and reflection on the services we offered our students.

We learned from ground-breaking models at leading universities such as Harvard, Yale, Melbourne and Hong Kong. We talked to employers, professional bodies, educators, students and others to ensure our teaching met the needs and expectations of our students, future employers and the needs of wider society.

Our overarching aim was to enhance the learning experience for our students, while ensuring that our graduates were better informed, more intellectually flexible, and equipped to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

The ongoing reform of our curriculum and co-curriculum aims in part to equip our students with an awareness and appreciation of ethical and moral issues, encouraging them to become active citizens and to have an understanding of their social and civic responsibilities.

Graduate Attributes

A core element of the Curriculum Reform process was the development of Graduate Attributes. These are a wide-ranging set of qualities that are developed during your time as a student, in preparation for future employment, further study and life as an active, global citizen.

The four strands of Graduate Attributes are:

  • Academic Excellence
  • Critical Thinking and Communication
  • Learning and Personal Development
  • Active Citizenship
6th Century Courses

As well as providing opportunities to include courses from other disciplinary areas as part of your curriculum, the introduction of a series of inter-disciplinary Sixth Century Courses (named to celebrate the University being in its sixth century) was among the most exciting innovations of the Curriculum Reform process. 

With academics from across the University working across disciplinary boundaries, these courses lend themselves to the discussion of different approaches to the challenges facing modern society. Initially focussed on levels 1 and 2, the course options include:

  • Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities
  • Oceans and Society
  • Sustainable International Development
  • Natural World
  • Humans and Other Animals
  • What Gives us Rights?
  • Mankind in the Universe: The Question of Objectivity

As the portfolio expands, it now includes Honours level options linked to our core research themes in areas as diverse as:

  • Science and Society
  • Worlds of Food: Biological, Social, Cultural
  • Consciousness
  • Globalization
  • Bioethics

Details of all the Sixth Century Courses are available via the University's Catalogue of Courses.

MOOCs

In the summer of 2015, the University's first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were launched.

In June 2015, the Centre for Sustainable International Development (CSID) launched its 'Africa: Sustainable Development for all?" programme to an online audience of several thousand and with participants from over 100 countries.

In August 2015, the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) and the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health (RINH) launched its "Nutrition and Wellbeing" programme, with more than 25,000 people registering for the free online course.

Both tackle major global challenges, with the CSID course exploring Africa's development inequalities and the shaping of the UN's post-2015 development agenda, while the IMS / RINH course explores aspects of a healthy diet, the link between food and disease, and other aspects of diet and nutrition.

iCReaTE

iCReaTE is an emerging initiative initiated by colleagues in the School of Education.

The aim is to establish an interdisciplinary consortium on research and teaching in environment and education (iCReaTE) which aims to bring together academics from across the university interested in environment and sustainability issues and the interface with education.

Initial meetings took place in summer 2014, with plans for a number of activities in place.  With interest from around 30 academics from across all three colleges, as well as from the James Hutton Institute, there is scope for this initiative to develop and grow.

Further details are available from:

Dr Donald Gray
Director of Research and Interdisciplinarity
School of Education, MacRobert Building
d.s.gray@abdn.ac.uk