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Leading with purpose: aligning people and place for sustainable futures

23 Jan 2023 | Kim Ansell and Dr Catherine Hack Advance HE's Sustainability Conference in June will bring together senior leaders with responsibility for sustainability strategy to discuss how institutions can take an holistic approach to aligning their strategy and practice. Conference leads, Kay Hack and Kim Ansell discuss their aspirations for the day and for the sector.

The higher education sector recognises the need to demonstrate purpose and vision to stakeholders; but a sustainable future requires organisational leadership that prioritises how strategies, policies and practices will impact on people and the places they live and work.

 “[Higher education providers] should not act in ways that might plausibly undermine the world their students will inherit” (David Orr, 2011) 


Taking place in London, the conference will feature a keynote by Professor Clare Pollock, Provost at the University of Western Australia (UWA). Professor Pollock will share her insights and experiences in integrating sustainable practices across teaching, research and engagement with the local community; which was recognised in UWA’s performance as overall lead institution in the 2022 Times Higher Impact Rankings.

A provocation from Kezia Dugdale, Director of the John Smith Centre (School of Social & Political Sciences) at the University of Glasgow, will prompt reflection on the importance of social sustainability to enable people to flourish, allowing delegates to draw on their own perspectives and experiences and consider how to ensure social sustainability is integrated into their institutions' strategies and practices.

An increasingly important topic

As the global demand for higher education increases, it is important to ensure that growth is sustainable. Universities must critically reflect on their operations and partnerships, and measure the impact on students, staff and the communities, the people and the places, in which they operate.

The most recent THE pulse survey, indicated that 82% of students wanted to live in a way that was consistent with sustainable citizenship, they want their institution to demonstrate how they are making progress against the UN's Sustainable Development Goals across education and research and how they are modelling good practice through civic engagement. Such strategic change requires data and information, organisational and distributed leadership and integrated thinking and reporting to ensure we are measuring what matters.

We are committed to promoting sustainable practice in higher education and hope that this conference will be a vital new resource for sector leaders, and a platform for integrated thinking and collaboration on one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century.  We welcome the opportunity to share, collaborate and take the next steps in creating a more sustainable future for higher education.


Dr Kay Hack (PFHEA) is the Principal Adviser (Learning and Teaching) for Advance HE. She delivers a range of services to the HE sector, including supporting strategic leadership and change in HEIs and building and maintaining strong relationships with the STEM community, PSRBs, government and other organisations and individuals.

Kim Ansell is a Senior Consultant (Leadership and Governance) for Advance HE. Her work focuses predominantly on reviewing and helping shape organisations’ future direction, stakeholder engagement, and embedding new practices.

Sustainability Conference 2023 - 7 June, London

New for 2023, and aimed at senior and strategic leaders within HE, this conference will focus on the sector's responsibilities in relation to the UN SDGs, civic responsibility, new sustainability initiatives and research. Find out more


We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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