VCSE Guidebook/Creating regional (e-)learning networks/The VCSE regional learning networks

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6.6. The VCSE regional learning networks

The VCSE as an association of five European Universities can be defined/is a European (virtual) learning network. Each partner university is embedded again in other/further/respective regional networks. Consequently all partners act as regional actors and give impetus to sustainable regional development in many ways. The additional benefit of the VCSE is that partner universities are linked in a way to jointly offer more opportunities on ESD than each of them would be able to provide individually. The VCSE partner universities’ existing regional learning networks in the field of sustainable development are quite heterogeneous concerning the actor groups outlined above. It can be noted that all actor groups are addressed, depending on focus of each of the partner universities. In addition to existing RCE’s in some regions, cooperation of universities with schools, enterprises and other regional actors can be added. The following map shows some selected examples of each university’s network relations, which are then described below to give a better insight into possible co-operations.

Fig 2: VCSE partners’ learning networks. © D. Blazej; J. Ehetreiber

The Institute of Geography and Regional Science at the University of Graz is part of the following learning networks:

1. CEEPUS - "Central European Exchange Program for University Studies": This network consists of 14 member countries fostering academic mobility among students and teachers in Europe in order to encourage the Bologna objectives in SEE. This learning network is characterised by an informal individual learning process and knowledge transfer based on the exchange of students and academic staff. Consequently, it is neither technically oriented nor catered to a specific target. The two most important sub-initiatives within the CEEPUS program are:

  • a) The GEOREGNET fosters cooperation within CEEPUS program by connecting Universities in Central and South Eastern Europe in the field of geography dealing with social geographic topics. The network consists in scientific and educational cooperation in addition to international student and teacher mobility.
  • b) A Master studies development program called-Learning and guest lecturers (in the frame of Brain Gain Program Plus or Twinning) with the University of Novi Sad/Serbia. 3 Master modules will be implemented as blended team-teaching courses at the University of Novi Sad. Consequently teachers from the University of Graz will held guest lectures supported by a colleague from Novi Sad.

2. RCE Graz-Styria - Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development: The RCE Graz-Styria is headquartered at the Institute of Geography and Regional Science and was founded in the context of the UN-Decade “Education for Sustainable Development” (2007-2014). RCE Graz-Styria acts as a part of an international network “Global Learning Space for Sustainable Development” (GLS) of 55 RCEs worldwide, which are coordinated by the United Nations University. On local level, RCEs aim at creating a network of Sustainability initiatives, implementing new and innovative activities as well as supporting the knowledge transfer between university and society. On global level, the GLS facilitates an experience transfer between cultures and contributes to a global learning process about how sustainable development can be communicated and awareness of it can be raised. This network operates on local as well on international level by pooling academic expertise and non-academic know-how. Obviously RCE Graz-Styria offers the widest and most inhomogeneous target group, which varies corresponding to topics within the wide scope of sustainability.

3. Regional Centre for Teacher Training in Geography: This institution is also headquartered at the Institute of Geography/University of Graz and fosters the collaboration between universities, colleges of education and schools in the field of Geography. Furthermore it serves as an interdisciplinary oriented learning network and knowledge transfer between practical school experience, science and economy by providing (continuing) education for teachers and students, teaching materials and conducting research projects. This regional learning network focuses on school teachers and students/pupils as core target groups, secondary on the wider public or regional actors.

The Open University Netherlands, being a distance teaching university, has a vast number of (e-)learning networks. On the regional level, there are two networks with a focus on sustainable development and (e-)learning:

1. Regional Centre of Expertise on Learning for Sustainable Development (RCE) Rhine-Meuse: THE OUNL is one of the founders of this RCE and represented on the Board. There are many partners in the RCE, including institutes of higher education and scientific research, school organisations, companies, and local and regional governments (see website for details). The geographic coverage is the Euregio Rhine-Meuse, including parts of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. The OUNL School of Science is involved in RCE activities on a project basis. E.g. OUNL student teams working in an e-based Virtual Environmental Consultancy execute projects upon the request of RCE.

2. Energy Academy: The Energy Academy is a consortium of OUNL, other institutes of higher education, companies, and local and regional governments. The main aim of the course is to educate professionals who will be able to face the challenges of climate change and energy conservation, industry participation in the emission trading scheme and including pollution emission in a whole production process. The Energy Academy is a local-regional initiative, drawing participants from the Dutch Province of Limburg, and the bordering areas in Germany and Belgium, which as a whole used to be a major coal mining area in Western-Europe. OUNL is a formal partner in the Energy Academy. The School of Science currently offers an e-learning module on 'Energy Analysis' in the Business Course in Sustainable Energy.

3. DHO, the Dutch national network for sustainable development in higher education curricula was founded in 1998. The main target group are educators, management staff within higher learning institutes, key persons within NGO's, companies and governments. The network also involves international partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America. DHO aims to develop learning opportunities, innovative learning environments and methodologies within higher education that enable individuals to develop competences on sustainable development.

The Charles University Environment Centre (CUEC) is part of three prominent regional and national networks and activities with a specific view on target groups, both e- and non e-based:

1. The Czech University Teachers’ Forum: It was established on the Center’s initiative in 1998 as an organization of members who share an interest in university teaching in environmental affairs and cooperate to clarify and create the content, scope and methods of teaching for SD on university level. Universities from the whole Czech Republic are being involved in regular meetings and other activities (e.g. peer-reviewed e-journal on education for SD is being produced by CUEC and distributed to this network).

2. Enviwiki ( as a specific e-learning environment is being offered to involved partners and students from different faculties take their share in the courses based on its use.

3. PASDEL project Network: The PASDEL project (PrActising Sustainable Development through E-Learning) is a partnership of 10 partners from 5 countries. They are involved in a dialogue and share experience in e-learning designed for different target groups which answer the training need among local decision makers, businesses and the academic sector. Used e-learning modules provide multidisciplinary views in various fields and offer a practical, complete and adaptable environment for participants of different specializations.

At Lüneburg University, there are three main network initiatives in the field of education for sustainable development.

1. Working Group “Higher Education” of the German Section of the UN-Decade "Education for Sustainable Development": Different working groups consisting of a broad variety of actors in the field of ESD are working on a national action plan for the UN-Decade "Education for Sustainable Development". The working group “Higher Education”, coordinated by the University of Lüneburg and consisting of 20 partners from different Universities is covering the field of Higher Education in Germany.

2. North-German Partnership of the UN-Decade "Education for Sustainable Development („Norddeutsche Partnerschaft zur Unterstützung der UN-Dekade Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung 2005 – 2014“): Partnership of north German federal states dedicating themselves to ESD. Together they work on activities to foster ESD approaches and to integrate ESD in all educational systems. The partnership is coordinated by the University of Lüneburg.

3.CHAIR - Higher Education for Sustainable Development: The UNESCO Chair Program was initiated in 1991, in order to promote international cooperation in higher education and to integrate UNESCO’s objectives into research and teaching. A major part of this program emphasises on how to integrate higher education institutions from the South into an international network. This program aims to strengthen and to support the international cooperation and transcultural communication via global networking of higher education institutions as well as via cross-national research.

The University of Macedonia (UOM) is closely collaborating with the following local /regional and/or national networks on learning for sustainable development:

  • Consortium of Environmental Labs of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (more than 150 environmental laboratories): it aims to support the exchange of know-how and the transfer of expertise among academic institutions and built up partnerships for the setting up of regional development projects on sustainability issues.
  • National Network for the Sensitization concerning Waste Management and Sustainability Issues: The Network is supported by a nation-wide network of Centres for Environmental Education (K.P.E.), in collaboration with academic institutions, consortium of local/regional authorities, environmental NGOs and associations of scientists and professionals. Its aim is the production of high-quality environmental educational packages and mediums addressed to students of primary and secondary education at a nation-wide scale for their environmental sensitization and dissemination of best-practices on sustainability issues.
  • Trans-boundary Network for Environmental Education and the Development of Environmental Education Material for all Educational Levels between Greece and F.Y.R.O.M.: The Network has been formed in the framework of Interreg III/PHARE CARDS 2006, and it aims in the development of innovative environmental educational material for all level of education (primary, secondary and higher education) coordinated by with the University of Macedonia, Greece in collaboration with academic institutions of F.Y.R.O.M.