Sustainable Education through SoTL: Practices and Cultures

A sustainable system is one that “remains diverse and productive” (Reza, 2016) and fosters long-term wellbeing across a number of dimensions. Higher education necessarily plays a leading role in contributing to such systems, both inside and outside the university. The current COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the ability of higher education systems around the world to remain sustainable themselves, and to continue to contribute to sustainable societies into the future.

Effective SoTL practices engage, inspire and equip students to make lasting impacts in their communities beyond university, while at the same time motivate and nourish staff to enthusiastically interact with and guide their students. Both aspects of SoTL practice help bring about thriving cultures. This is the ideal, but in a climate of diminished funding and revenue, lower support for higher education from governments, and uncertainty around the kind of world students will graduate into, achieving and sustaining the ideal is a difficult task. SoTL must not only influence present practices and current cultures. Our educational practices and the local, regional and global cultures they promote must be sustainable into the future and able to grow, develop and transform with and for future generations.

The University of Western Australia and the four other universities in Perth are located on the beautiful land (Boodja) of the Wadjuk Noongar people, the traditional custodians of the region. The Noongar people have been experts in sustainable education for millennia. We are privileged to emulate a culture of learning and teaching on these lands that has been highly valued for more than 40,000 years. Our universities serve a diverse, multi-cultural local population and welcome a large number of international students from all over the world, particularly the Asia-Pacific region. Our SoTL practices and cultures embrace past and present, local cultures and global relationships, and strive towards the future. They have proven to be adaptable and resilient in response to the changing conditions caused by the global pandemic.

In bringing together scholars of teaching and learning from around the globe, ISSOTL21 will be a forum to examine the role SoTL can play in ensuring that the practices and cultures we value at our universities and beyond are sustained into the future.