Responsible futures and the Green Impact Awards
Charlene has just completed her Foundation Degree in Teaching and Learning. Recently, she had the amazing opportunity to take part in an audit verifying the results of the University of Worcester's Responsible Futures accreditation. She has written about her experience for us.
As a student with The Learning Institute, we receive regular communication from the University of Worcester, keeping us informed about news and events on campus; important information about our studies, and relevant announcements and consultations with the Student Union about various schemes and ongoing initiatives. Studying away from campus, this allows us to feel part of the wider university community as well as feeling involved in university and student life.
During lockdown, I received an email from Katy Boom, who is the Director of Sustainability at the University of Worcester, inviting students to participate in a 3-day audit to verify the results of the University’s Responsible Futures accreditation. The training and audit would take place on Zoom and would be a collaborative effort between the University of Worcester and the University of Coventry alongside both student unions. I embraced the opportunity to participate as I was interested in the approach taken by the University of Worcester towards sustainability, and thought it would be a good opportunity to meet (albeit virtually) other students and staff based at the University. This opportunity arose due to the lockdown, as normally the audit would take place on campus in Worcester, so this provided an opportunity for students from The Learning Institute to easily access it, which was a great opportunity to gain more skills and contribute to the university, as well as to collaborate with others and enhance skills learnt during my foundation degree.
The audit itself was multi-faceted, and on day one we were trained to conduct the audit. There were many other students from Worcester and Coventry, each studying at various points and in differing fields, so it was good to be part of a diverse panel and to listen to others’ viewpoints and experiences. Two members of Students Organising for Sustainability (SOSUK) co-hosted the training, and they explained that Responsible Futures is a programme for further and higher education institutes to embed environmental, social and economic sustainability throughout the formal and informal curriculum, linking to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our job as auditors was to gain an understanding of the programme, and to look at the evidence presented by our institute to support the accreditation mark. This would include reviewing documentary evidence, interviewing staff, conducting student focus groups, recognising effort and outcomes, and providing suggestions and feedback. This was a great opportunity to apply some of the skills learnt during the foundation degree I had just completed with The Learning Institute, such as interview skills, criticality, reflection, and communication. It was interesting to learn about the university’s values and vision and various initiatives linking to the university’s strategic plan on education for sustainable development, such as Green Week, upcycling, the wellbeing garden and how these values are applied to university lives to safeguard environmental, social and economic wellbeing, as well as to learn of barriers they have faced.
The documentary evidence had to be scrutinised against key performance indicators, with the opportunity to ask questions or request further information if necessary, and as auditors we had to score each section on difficulty and impact before deciding whether that criteria had been successfully met or if further work was needed to achieve it. I applied further transferable skills learnt during my foundation degree such as time management, attention to detail, diplomacy, organisational skills, and initiative as well as justification for my decisions.
Another part of the audit was to interview a member of staff involved with RF. I was given the wonderful opportunity of interviewing the Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Worcester, Ross Renton. I was excited at the prospect, and it was an incredible experience, during which I gained valuable insight as to how the University of Worcester are clearly at the forefront of sustainability planning and implementation and how they are constantly striving to improve and find new ways of promoting change. The University of Worcester, like The Learning Institute, clearly have a culture where open dialogue, engagement with other institutes, businesses, schools and the community, and a strong inclusive relationship between the students and the leadership and management team are prioritised, alongside strong ethics and a culture which focusses on driving forward positive change.
It was encouraging to note the positive co-operation between the student union and the leadership team at the university. This was a real strength which shone through, as were the links between the institute and the local community which are deeply forged and effective.
The final part of the audit involved giving a presentation to union representatives, leadership staff at the University of Worcester and others involved in the Responsible Futures programme, discussing an overview of Responsible Futures, a summary of the audit process, evidence review, interviews and focus groups, and providing feedback including key findings and recommendations, and a reflection about the auditing experience. This involved collaborating and sharing viewpoints with the other student auditors and arranging a concerted presentation.
This all occurred as a result of studying for a foundation degree with The Learning Institute, because it gave me a platform to further expand my skills, knowledge and experiences which have all had a positive effect on my personal and professional life. It made me realise that whilst I am a wife and a Mum to four young children, and a mature student, I can balance studying for a degree alongside working and still feel involved in university life and be included in events occurring on campus. I felt privileged to be a part of the audit as it highlighted the opportunities which can be available to students at The Learning Institute to be a part of the university community and to further their prospects and skills.
Furthermore, the positive experience has also led to me being invited to speak at the Green Impact Awards ceremony about the auditing process- an opportunity which I never thought I would experience!