Sustainability | UCLL

A sustainability strategy with impact

UCLL  forms inspiring professionals, entrepreneurial alumni, broad-minded global citizens and strong personalities who spend their lives contributing to a sustainable and just society. Moving Minds is what we call our UCLL alumni. They have a unique DNA.

As a University of Applied Sciences, we have an important role to play in the challenges of our time. Think of climate change, social inequality, loss of biodiversity, economic globalization, etc. UCLL is committed to motivating every student and every employee to be a sustainability changemaker who helps make the transition to a more sustainable and more just society and reality.

In May 2021, the management team and governing body of UCLL approved a university-wide sustanability and equity framework and equity. It states:

  • UCLL as an organisation deals sustainably with climate, resources, mobility, environment and people. In this way, it sets an inspiring example for students, staff, stakeholders and partners.
  • UCLL offers space to its students, staff and partners for entrepreneurship and experimentation in the field of sustainability.
  • UCLL supports all its  students, staff and teams, to engage in education for sustainable development inspired by the SDGs every day.

To this end, UCLL offers students and staff members a safe, inspiring and action-oriented learning environment in which they can develop key competencies to contribute to an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable society.

Below you will find how sustainable development is addressed in our study programmes, in our curricula and didactic approach, in the practice-oriented research we offer, and in our organisation. We call it a sustainability strategy with impact.

Sustainability as a priority

UCLL is actively working towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. UCLL implements a sustainability strategy starting from that SDG framework.

The United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In 2015, the United Nations launched a global action plan for sustainable development. It consists of 17 global goals in response to major global challenges. The 17 SDGs are the compass toward a sustainable future.

Each of these SDGs is relevant to UCLL. However, the central SDG for our university of applied sciences is SDG 4 "Quality of Education" and even more specifically SDG 4.7: "...ensure by 2030 that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

UCLL strategic priority: engaging global citizens

In its strategic plan, UCLL incorporated the strategic priority of "engaging global citizens." As part of this, this strategic plan states: "UCLL implements SDG 4.7." This indicates what UCLL is committed to and the impact it aims to make.

As a university, we believe it is important for all our students, staff and alumni to actively participate in building a sustainable and just society with strong social cohesion in a world of super-diversity, a multitude of life choices and cultures. Therefore, we commit ourselves to promoting international and intercultural competencies and contacts in all degree programmes, as well as in our human resources policies. The university sees internationalisation and cooperation with foreign institutions as an indispensable, integral building block to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Education and practice-based research for sustainable development

The biggest impact we can make as a university on the global challenges of our time lies in our core missions: education and research. UCLL is committed to developing knowledge, skills and attitudes for sustainable development in every  module and project.

Education for sustainable development

In all courses at UCLL, the emphasis is not so much on traditional 21st century skills, but rather on future skills. Multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary learning, collaborative learning, inquiry-based learning, international and intercultural competencies, embracing diversity, a change-oriented attitude, and expertise in critical-reflective and systems thinking are important competencies to realise solutions to society's complex challenges. Each study programme at UCLL focuses on a specific SDG and the associated competencies on sustainability, so that alumni can contribute to sustainable development in their future  jobs.

  • UCLL offers TrAnsdisciplinary Co-creative Training Units or TACOs, because transdisciplinary work is a key element for Moving Minds. Examples of such TACOs are "With design thinking towards a circular future," "Superdiversity at work," and "Scenarios for dreamers”.
  • In the framework of E³UDRES² (a partnership of 5 European higher education institutions including UCLL) we organise I Living Labs, working not only transdisciplinarily but also internationally with students from all over Europe.
  • UCLL has a growing educational offer where SDGs are the starting point. Think of the practice-oriented Bachelor of Food and Dietetics, the Advanced Bachelor of Global Citizenship and Development, the tracks Circular Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking & Innovation within the Advanced Bachelor of Advanced Business Management, the Associate Degree in Renewable Energy Systems, the Postgraduate Certificate of International Education Class (PIEC), the global waste hackathon Hack the Waste, and so on.
Research for sustainability

UCLL has 8 centres of expertise (Research & Expertise or R&E). UCLL centres of expertise such as Sustainable Resources, Inclusive Society, Resilient People and Health Innovation explicitly address particular aspects of sustainability and equity. Through their  applied research, new products, methods, processes and  trainings are created that contribute to solving real problems of companies and organisations,  also in the field of sustainable development. Examples:

  • We create new products or extract valuable components from waste or by-product streams, in the context of circular handling of raw materials.
  • We combine solar panels, batteries, heat pumps, microgrids, etc. in an intelligent way to realise domestic and/or industrial energy systems that are as efficient and sustainable as possible.
  • We monitor air quality using low-cost sensors and analytical equipment.
  • We actively engage in health promotion to promote healthy lifestyles, mental health, health literacy and oral health.
  • We work toward inclusive, intercultural and empathetic dialogue in education and beyond through service and after-school education.
  • We seek sustainable responses to issues and tensions in our society around (anti-)racism, (de)colonisation, multiculturalism, equal opportunity and social cohesion.

UCLL also actively pursues the intertwining of  education, research and services, in which students from different disciplines are actively involved in solution-oriented and socially relevant projects. Thus, they learn essential research and service competencies for the future. Project results are incorporated into the curriculum, keeping education up-to-date and relevant.

What’s new in 2022-2023?

1. Sustainability in  curricula

10 UCLL study programmes  are explicitly called "Sustainable Curricula" as of academic year 2022-2023. Sustainability  has a permanent place in the curricula of the Bachelor of Applied Computer Science (Heverlee), the Bachelor of Chemistry (Leuven and Diepenbeek), the Bachelor of Nursing (Leuven and Genk), the Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics (Leuven), the Bachelor of Social Readaptation Sciences (Heverlee), the Bachelor of Social Work (Heverlee) and the Educational Bachelors Early Childhood and Primary Education (Diest). In the curriculum changes, students will be at the wheel.

2. Impact Teams

Starting in academic year 2022-2023, we will start a program together with Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS) International to mobilise UCLL employees to realise concrete sustainable actions in the workplace. Employees will be able to form Impact Teams with like-minded colleagues and students that take practical actions to improve the sustainability of the workplace, service, building or the entire organization.  Actions may focus on movement, diversity and inclusion, energy consumption, food and catering, waste and recycling, water conservation, mobility, biodiversity, curricula and training elements, etc. In this way, each can be a changemaker with colleagues, make a difference, create positive change at work, and contribute to a more sustainable world. A team of student auditors will evaluate the results of all teams at the end.

Central to the UCLL sustainability strategy are the curricula, the content and goals of the programmes and the Moving Minds DNA as an educational model within all those programmes.

In addition to education, practice-oriented scientific research is a core mission of UCLL University of Applied Sciences. More than 500 researchers in 8 centers of expertise under the UCLL Research & Expertise (R&E) department provide innovative applications in close connection with the training programs.

In the outer circle, UCLL - in consultation with students and the 8 campuses - focuses on climate, resources, mobility, environment and people with continuous initiatives with impact on the entire organization.

The great commitment of UCLL students and UCLL staff

The UCLL community demonstrates an intrinsic motivation for sustainability inspired by its own vision: "Putting people and ideas in motion." Not a week goes by without an initiative, action or idea (big or small) from staff or students on UCLL's intranet, various social media or website pages that refers to 'contributing to a sustainable and just society'. The commitment towards sustainability and justice is very high within UCLL.

Bottom-up initiatives

Initiatives to deal sustainably with energy, raw materials, mobility, environment and people are constantly emerging. A sustainable mobility policy has been developed. Sustainable and circular procurement, energy efficiency, telecommuting, attention to life/work balance, inclusiveness, sustainable campus management, diverse staff recruitment, active and democratic student participation, etc., are being promoted.

Do you have questions, suggestions, ideas
about sustainability?

Contact Irene Hermans