1st June 2022

On May 20th I presented a keynote to a session of  the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education (WHEC). The conference aimed to ‘reshape ideas and practices in higher education to ensure sustainable development for the planet and humanity’. (Not before time you might think….)

The session I was involved in – hosted by the International Association of Universities (IAU), was entitled ‘Higher Education’s role in securing the future – a more equitable, peaceful and sustainable society. Are universities ready to assume their full responsibility?’

and my keynote was an updated version of a presentation I have now done on a number of occasions – Educating for the future we want – re-imagining higher education in unprecedented times.  

An article about the session can be found here. https://www.mission4point7.org/news/insights-from-the-discussion-at-unesco-whec22

It also includes a video of the session – my keynote can be found about 40 mins in.  If you’d like a pdf of the slides, let me know (see Contact).





18th April 2022

Apologies to those who have visited this page of late expecting news only to see out of date postings! I shall endeavour to do better…..

Meantime, here are some items which may be of interest. I have been delivering various versions of a talk (usually) entitled ‘Educating for the Future we Want – re-imagining higher education in dangerous times’. This included to the annual conference of the American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).  One iteration was for my old university  -Plymouth – at the beginning of the year. This video can be found here:


The work I did, with my co-editors, on the ‘Research Topic’ of the Frontiers in Sustainability journal was recently concluded.  All the details are below.

Frontiers | Books in Sustainable Organizations

Re-Purposing Universities for Sustainable Human Progress’ – Research Topic and e-book published (open access)

The Frontiers in Sustainability Research Topic on ‘re-purposing universities’ (that I have been involved in co-editing over more than a year) has now been published on-line. An e-book is also freely available. The Research Topic consists of 24 varied papers and has involved 65 authors in total. As of April 22, the home page has now had nearly 90K views.

This collection represents a major and very timely commentary on the role that higher education must assume in our times of multiple global crises – and on how this full response might be achieved.

My own paper is here:

‘Concern, Conception and Consequence: re-thinking the paradigm of higher education in dangerous times’


The ‘Editorial’, written with my co-editors Iain Stewart and Victoria Hurth is here:



Alternatively, you can access the whole Research Topic e-book as both pdf and E-PUB downloads via the e-book via the Research Topic homepage, where all articles are also individually available.



18th May 2021

Check out the pdf of my webinar to CIES last November – just uploaded under ‘Presentations’ on this site. ‘Positive dis-illusion and everyday consciousness – breaking through to regenerative education  in ten propositions’. https://ciesesdsig.wixsite.com/esesig/workshops 

17th May 2021

The Great Transition Initiative (GTI) on-line Discussion Forum took place in March, where the theme was ‘The Pedagogy of Transition: Educating for the Future we Want’.

I was honoured to be invited to write the Opening Essay for this discussion, and this attracted responses from fifty-six GT Network members around the world, mounting to over 60,000 words of comments, suggestions and proposals.

A selection of the contributions (29 out of the 56 received) has just been published on-line by GTI, and it is a very rich source of ideas, good practice and inspiration. (Click on title below).

To quote the release:

Our new GTI Forum, The Pedagogy of Transition, explores how to align education with emerging social and ecological imperatives. The times call for approaches that cultivate integrated knowledge and global citizenship, while preparing students for curious, well-informed, big-hearted lives. Instead, we continue to educate for a world we don’t want.

Forward-looking educators confront the challenge at two levels: long-term efforts to adapt educational systems for a changing world and the near-term work creating alternative curricula and pedagogies within existing systems. The Forum is thus divided into two panels, Frameworks and Practices. The first appraises the state of education today, the factors maintaining its deficiencies, and strategies for its reformation. The second reports on the kinds of innovations already in the classroom (and beyond) that point the way forward.’

Any publicity that can be given to this GTI Discussion Forum collection through your networks would be very welcome, thank you.



11th May 2021

Exciting news coming very soon about my work with the Great Transition Initiative (https://greattransition.org/) but for now, two fairly recent pieces of work you might be interested in:

A lecture to education staff at the University of Lancashire on ‘Concern, congruence and contribution: re-purposing higher education in unprecedented times’ Stephen Sterling – Sustainability Education December 2020


an Earth Charter podcast based on an interview by Mirian Vilela, Director of Earth Charter International

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Stephen Sterling


20th January 2021

Good wishes to all those working to make education and learning relevant to and effective towards securing a safe future in these troubled times. Our work has never been more important.

At last – and I really mean that! – there are signs that many policymakers and educators are waking up to the fact that education/learning really has to be fundamentally re-thought if it is going to make a positive difference to the profound challenges we face at local and global levels. For example, UNESCO’s Futures of Education initiative is to be welcomed https://en.unesco.org/futuresofeducation/

Apologies to those who had been keeping an eye on this website in 2020 and seen little change!

I experienced a very close family tragedy in the spring of 2020, which led me to step back from professional engagements for some months.  In addition, as with many people, Covid 19 had a major negative effect on my work progamme.  That said, I kept fairly busy, particularly from the autumn.

This work included:

  • 16th November: Global Bioeconomy Summit 2020, on-line talk for conference: ‘Towards sustainability through systemic change in education’.
  • 17th Talk/webinar for CIES/Earth Institute ‘Positive dis-illusion and everyday consciousness – breaking through to regenerative education  in ten propositions’. https://ciesesdsig.wixsite.com/esesig/workshops 
  • 0th November, Keynote talk for Lifelong Learning Week 2020 ‘Towards sustainable education and learning’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSRU9odCKPA&list=PL-alwtxqu7HEKj5U6rmi5pY-vpV7R3i4E (starts at 26 minutes)
  • 11th December, ‘Concern, Congruence and Contribution – re-purposing higher education in unprecedented times,’ talk and symposium for Institute for Curriculum Enhancement, Lancaster University.

Amongst other things, I am currently working as a co-editor on a special issue of the Frontiers in Sustainability journal, with the title ‘Re-purposing Universities for Sustainable Human Progress’.

You will – at last! – find a new blog posted on my site. It’s on why our idea of ‘the environment’ can be really problematic in our challenge to secure the future.

I will endeavour to write blogs more often! And hopefully, update and amend the ‘Bite-size Sterling’ page which summarises my key ideas.

If you have any comments on anything on this site, do get in touch, thank you

– Stephen

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“The circular economy is an expression of systems thinking and in all our insight publishing and educational work we owe a great debt of gratitude to Stephen’s clarity and perseverance in this arena.”

Ken Webster (Head of Innovation), Ellen MacArthur Foundation