Unesco Green Citizens

Sustainability Course: A Powerful Tool in University Curriculum

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Project begin: 01/09/2014

Dr Mohd Sayuti Hassan and Dr Rahimi Binti Che Aman believe students play an important role in spreading the “sustainability culture” on campus and beyond. Through an innovative class format, students become actors of change, carrying out concrete sustainable projects related to energy saving, food waste management, recycling and carbon footprints.


Leading organisation: Universiti Sains Malaysia
The country where the team is based: Malaysia
Theme: Education for Sustainable Development
Sub-themes: Climate change, Energy, Environment, Knowledge sharing, Resources management, Sustainable lifestyles, Waste management
Tag: #Youth
Selection: 2020/2021
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Initial problem

When the Sustainability course (WSU 101) began in 2014, there were generally low levels of understanding and sustainability awareness among the undergraduate students in University Sains Malaysia (USM). It was determined that education for sustainable development should incorporate sustainability principles throughout their academic syllabuses and on-campus initiatives.

The importance of students as the main stakeholders of Higher Education Institution in promoting sustainable development was realized in the early stages of introducing sustainability into campuses. Students play an important role in spreading the “sustainability culture” on campus and beyond. However, not many students embrace sustainability in their daily life.

The positive impacts that the project has made

In its vision to become a sustainability-led university of world-class standing, University Sains Malaysia (USM) has embraced a whole sustainability transition which means that they will mainstream sustainability at all levels integrating social, economic and environmental aspects into their core activities such as teaching, research, community engagement and institutional arrangements.

The Centre for Co-Curricular Programme in collaboration with the Center for Global Sustainability Studies (CGSS) at USM has taken the initiative to promote and integrate sustainability subjects across USM curriculum for undergraduate studies. Formal curriculum development by CGSS is the introduction of an elective sustainability course for undergraduates called WSU 101 (Sustainability: Issues, Challenges and Prospects), coordinated by Dr Mohd Sayuti Hassan. This particular course is offered under the Centre for Co-Curricular Programme, headed by Associate Professor Dr Rahimi Binti Che Aman. The course emphasizes the implementation of sustainable development through the study of global case studies and examples drawn from sustainability programmes from around the world. Additionally, this course aims to expose students to the latest developments in the sustainability studies agenda while nurturing the skills needed toward developing sustainability-oriented programmes.

Since WSU 101 is offered in an academic session, there has been encouraging response from undergraduates students in USM. An average of 500 students is enrolled every semester in USM main Campus in Penang, indicating that this sustainability subject is well received among USM students. The course was then introduced, duplicated and offered in two other USM campuses; The USM Health Campus (in Kelantan, Malaysia) and USM Engineering Campus (in Nibong Tebal, Penang, Malaysia). The number of enrolments in these two campuses is still growing with an average of 50 and 150 students respectively.

At the end of the course, students are expected to demonstrate their level of sustainability understanding through group projects and presentations. Students are divided into groups of ten and are encouraged to be attached with any sustainability-related Departments, Schools or Centers within USM to do their sustainability projects. Opportunities to work closely with relevant stakeholders in public and private sectors are wide open. Projects such as energy-saving, food waste management, recycling and carbon footprints are among the famous topics among students.

Today, USM has large numbers of enrolments for the course each academic semester. The increased number of enrolments each academic semester indicates the interest in sustainability among students is increasing.

Impacted areas and populations

Students, campus and local communities where students are involved with their sustainability projects and outreach programmes have been impacted positively by the USM initiative. 

Moreover, two other USM campuses in different states have been impacted by this project. There are the USM Health Campus (in Kelantan, Malaysia) and the USM Engineering Campus (in Nibong Tebal, Penang, Malaysia).

Obstacles and challenges

Dr Mohd Sayuti Hassan and Dr Rahimi Binti Che Aman are facing challenges with securing funding to support students outreach programmes. With funding, students will be able to engage with local communities and sustainability-related stakeholders to make their projects more sustainable and hope to even commercialize some students’ projects.

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