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Responding to Climate Change 2011

Home | Education & Research | Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana

Fostering an academic
culture of sustainability

Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana

Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana

Climate change is a challenge for civilisation; given the ubiquitous implications of the climate, the strategies designed to deal with, or influence, such a change, and the technological, economic and social components required. The Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) demonstrates how higher education plays a high-profile role in overarching societal action because of its contribution to the culture of sustainability.

This Mexican university has been committed to sustainability for more than a decade. UAM was the first Mexican university to offer an undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering in 1974. Master’s and Doctoral programmes in the field have been offered for over a decade. Today, several of the academic divisions have sustainability degrees and research within a multidisciplinary perspective.

The results are evident in the nature and spirit flourishing in its community, and academics, students and staff all display a high sense of responsibility towards sustainability principles. This can be seen in the positive and spontaneous response by the university community to institutional programmes like energy and water saving, and sorting rubbish. Creating these habits within communities has positive effects at home and in society at large. Further still, university members themselves have proposed ways to extend and enrich the programmes.

The institution aims to be a paradigm for sustainability, to be realised by 2014. Elements include the development and implementation of sustainable practices across teaching and research and encompassing culture and management (see box below). It is expected these practices will provide a strong positive influence on social, economic and environmental activities across México. This will be proved when they are replicated in other universities nationally.

Paradigm Components

  • Adoption of a culture for sustainability;
  • Strengthening of teaching programmes that relate to sustainability;
  • Strengthening of research projects in the field;
  • Creation of, and participation in national and international networks devoted to sustainability; and,
  • Development of projects involving sustainability.

This strategy was born out of a diagnosis of sustainability-related matters in the University. It was initiated in response to a proposal from the Mexican association of higher-education institutions in 1999 and subsequent publication of the Action Plan for the Sustainable Development of Higher Education Institutions in 2000. The diagnosis was organised according to current activities, procedures and programmes around sustainability.

The structure, approach and contents of the bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes were revised and incorporated updated knowledge in the field of sustainability. The list of research projects registered were classified according to their specialised objectives, and as to whether it’s a matter of basic research or the application of natural or social sciences to solving specific problems. Furthermore, sustainability research projects where results reach the wider public were also registered. Information on widely different topics, including sustainability, is spread out via periodicals and lectures.

Concerning the management of the campus, issues over pollution control, water and residue management, garden up-keeping, efficient energy use and general maintenance were also tackled. All the above has been complemented with campaigns to raise awareness and strengthen the culture of sustainability.

How to achieve sustainability in academia


Activity Systemic
Ethical approach Participatory & related planning
Education Classes and cross subjects Professional responsibility Students co-responsibility in teaching learning process
Research Disciplinary researchResearch on social equity participation Researchers’ commitment to create a sustainability culture
Extension Interdivisional projects Social work in communities Urban sustainable development impulse
Management Integral management system Benefits of community management programmes Active participation of communities in management programmes

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Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana

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