Sustainability in Higher Education: Accreditation

The rapid evolution of sustainability degree programs, both in the U.S. and internationally, raises important questions for administrators, faculty, current and prospective students, and other stakeholders in the field of sustainability in higher education. How can students find the best programs for their goals? How do employers know the value of sustainability degrees? How do sustainability degree programs differ from related fields of environmental studies and sciences, or emerging programs such as resilience or energy education? A 2020 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), entitled Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels, articulated the necessity for defining a field:

Academic institutions of higher education should embrace sustainability education as a vital field that requires specifically tailored educational experiences and the development of core sustainability-focused competencies and capacities delivered through courses, majors, minors, certifications, research, and graduate degrees in sustainability. (p. 5).

GCSE is exploring this topic with community input toward the goal of a program-level accreditation that sets flexible standards to guide programs toward quality, accessible, and context-relevant teaching and learning. As a sample of the type of input we are gathering, here are some examples of benefits and barriers related to accreditation for sustainability programs. 



(Mentimeter data from Roundtable discussions held in October, 2022) 


Return to the Sustainability in Higher Education initiative page here