Rethinking events in higher and further education: A systemic sustainability Perspective

Paul Shabajee*, Debra Hiom, Chris Preist

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

1 Citation (Scopus)


Planned events,1 such as those listed above, pervade the lives of those who work within universities and colleges. They are embedded into the fabric of the way that virtually every aspect of higher and further education (HE and FE) operate; spanning teaching and learning, research, operations and administration. If we spend more than a few minutes browsing any governance or operational document of a large institution, planned meetings and other kinds of events are

likely to tumble out. See Figure 4.1 as an illustration from the authors’ own institution,  the  University  of  Bristol.  This  was  found  as  the  first  result  by  typing  ‘governance university of bristol’ into Google [18-Nov-2011]. Precisely because planned events are integral to the fabric of our organisations, we can sometimes forget just how pervasive and significant they are. We  may  also  not  notice  that  they  have  some  significant  negative  consequences.  Within  the  last  few years  there has been an  increasing awareness of anthropogenic climate change that has led to discussion pieces and editorials in academic and professional journals about the ‘carbon footprint’ of events, with titles such as (Shabajee and Curtis, 2012):

•  ‘The need for sustain able conferences’ (Bonnett, 2006) •  ‘Rethinking scientific meetings: an  imperative in an era of climate change’ 

(Young, 2009) •  ‘Why do we fly? Ecologists’ sins of emission’ (Fox et al., 2009) •  ‘Are  international medical conferences an outdated  luxury  the planet can’t 

afford? Yes’ (Green, 2008) [and ‘No’ (Drife, 2008)]

It  is  in  the  context  of  the  kinds  of  debates  and  questioning  reflected  in  those  journal articles that this chapter sits. It is based on the work and findings of the  Greening Events Project, which was a short exploratory project (FebruaryNovember 2010), funded as part of the Greening ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Programme of the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). The Greening ICT Programme aims to ‘. . . support UK colleges and universities in reducing their energy use, plan for more sustain able use of ICT for the future and help chart the course to new technology en abled paradigms for the university and college of the future’ (JISC, 2011). The Greening Events  Project  investigated  the  potential  sustain ability  benefits  and  issues  that  arise from the use of information and communications technologies in the contexts of organised events.   This chapter draws on the findings and issues that arose during the Greening  Events Project  to help meet  the goals of  this book;  that  is  to prompt  reflective  and critical perspectives of events in the context of sustain ability. Our focus here is to highlight some of the novel perspectives taken by the project, for example looking at events as systems and as part of larger systems, a focus on changes driven by ICT innovations, and some of the more problematic and interesting questions that arise.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvents Society and Sustainability
Subtitle of host publicationCritical and Contemporary Approaches
EditorsTomas Pernecky, Michael Lück
PublisherTaylor & Francis Group
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780203134535
ISBN (Print)9780415809931
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

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