Partnerships, in particular with key stakeholders, are key to moving a University’s sustainability strategy forward. One of the primary stakeholders for a University or business school is the community in which it operates.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia recognized this and has developed a key partnership with the local city council. I recently had the chance to speak with Loretta O’Donnell, Associate Dean, Education from UNSW about this historic agreement.
1. What is the Sustainability Agreement that you signed with Randwick City Council?
Randwick City Council and the University of New South Wales signed, in August 2012, a new Sustainability Agreement, one of the only continuing agreements of its kind between a local council and a university in Australia. The historic agreement enables Randwick Council to access a number of specialist sustainability activities underway across the University. It also facilitates practical student learning and the application of particular areas of research and teaching into on-ground sustainability related projects or strategy areas being delivered across Council programs. The agreement quotes the 2003 New South Wales State of the Environment Report, which notes: “people living today have an obligation to protect the health, productivity and diversity of the environment for future generations”.
2. What are the challenges of such an agreement?
Some of the challenges that we have faced with the agreement have been how to share intellectual property as well as dealing with conflict resolution. We have clearly discussed and addressed both in the Agreement to ensure that the partnership can operate smoothly. The common ground is very strong which helps substantially.
3. What have been some of the successes? How is it impacting your school?
One of the projects we have undertaken through this agreement has been to develop a Transport Memorandum of Understanding so that we can jointly engage in lobbying the State Government regarding the provision of light rail to the University and to the Randwick shopping area. This went through and was approved by state government in December 2012
Previous project areas to be considered in the ongoing sustainability agreement between the University and Council include studies and projects carried out by students and staff from water and wastewater engineering, photovoltaic engineering, the Faculty of the Built Environment, and the Institute for Environmental Studies.
4. What advice do you have for other schools thinking of putting in place a similar arrangement?
Find the common ground with appropriate stakeholders, and build on that common ground as a basis for discussion and dialogue. In our case, UNSW Vice-President, University Services, Mr Neil Morris said, “Sustainability is one of UNSW’s key research strengths. We are keen to link student learning and research with opportunities for practical experience within the community. Randwick Council has a strong record in sustainability initiatives over many years and we are thrilled to have this formal framework to improve those connections.”
5. What is next for UNSW?
The agreement between the Council and the University covers a number of aims and objectives including: cooperation on mutually beneficial sustainability projects and outcomes; sharing of information and experiences to improve sustainability across Randwick; to work on appropriate joint or cooperative sustainability projects or initiatives for the benefit of the local community and environment of Randwick.
Councilor Scott Nash, Major of Randwick was quoted as saying in regards to the agreement, “This is a unique opportunity for Council and its residents to benefit from the specialist areas of research and learning that UNSW is involved in. We have had a strong relationship with the University over many years, collaborating on a number of projects and activities and we look forward to building on them.”