//Developing a Connected Curriculum: Integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals within UCC’s Curriculum

Developing a Connected Curriculum: Integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals within UCC’s Curriculum

UCC recently launched a new project (funded by the National Forum for Teaching and Learning) to strengthen our institutional commitments towards sustainability by developing a suite of digital resources to assist teaching staff with the integration of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into UCC curricula.  The project is being jointly led through Green Campus and UCC’s Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CITRL).  It builds on the success of our University Wide Module in Sustainability run through the Department of Sociology and Crimnology, with input from all four Colleges in the Univeristy.

Although a number of modules currently address various SDGs (Fig. 1), there will now be a more systematic and intentional approach to promote integration of SDGs from a transdisciplinary perspective which enables the linking of all aspects of teaching and learning though the common thread of sustainable development.  This project aims to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for students to transform themselves into life learners and action oriented global citizens empowered with a mindset to become innovative agents of change and to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world in both their professional and personal lives.

In 2015, the United Nations member states unanimously agreed to a common framework for Sustainable Development based on 17 broad universal goals containing a total of 169 specific targets that meet the urgent economic, environmental and social challenges facing our global community.  The SDGs are the legacy of former Irish UN Ambassador David Donoghue who co-facilitated the negotiations of the global goals with other world leaders at the time.  The Irish government and the UN remain committed to the SDGs even in the wake of Covid-19 which demonstrate more than ever the needs for a more resilient society based on sustainable growth of human civilization while preserving our natural environment.

This project will also help to deliver on the Sustainability strand of UCC’s Connected Curriculum framework as outlined within UCC’s Academic Strategy 2018-2022.  This ambitious action oriented plan provides the necessary guidance to further solidify UCC’s position as a leader in sustainability education through the form of a living laboratory where students engage in research, teaching and learning while building active partnerships with the broader community.   The SDG-toolkit project also supports other key stands of the Connected Curriculum such as Inter/Transdisciplinarity, Research Based Teaching and Global Reach while addressing Employability within the emerging green sectors of the economy.

This SDG project aims to provide evidence-based, flexible and inclusive professional development of UCC teaching staff thereby furthering their efforts to provide enhanced contextual teaching and learning experiences in relation to sustainable development.  Specifically, the SDG project is developing resources for teaching staff including workshops and an online toolkit using lessons learned from UCC and global best practice, and will employ active learning pedagogy including project-based learning, case study, and/or problem-base learning.  The project aims for better coverage, measurement and assessment of SDG integration within UCC curricula to deliver on our state and institutional commitments to education for sustainable development.

Currently, we are in the initial phase of the project which is a qualitative analysis of best practice within UCC and internationally, and will soon transition into the next phase which is the development of an online toolkit covering each of the SDGs.  In the upcoming months, there will be a series of facilitated focus groups to seek input from teaching staff and students regarding specific resource needs within the toolkit, the toolkit’s overall structure and to continue the process of documenting best practices within UCC.  If you are interested in further information on this project, contributing to these focus groups, and/or being a member of this emerging community of practice please feel free to contact me directly.

John Barimo, PhD



Figure 1. SDGs in UCC Curriculum as per the 2018 The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System evaluation (numbers in inner ring refer to number of modules related to each SDG).


Additional Resources:

UCC Academic Strategy 2018-2022 https://www.ucc.ie/en/registrar/theconnecteduniversity/academicstrategy/

UCC Sustainability Strategy


The National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development in Ireland, 2014-2020


United Nations Overview of SDGs  https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/