Embedding the SDGs into the SIP – Hult Business School’s Report

This month PRiMEtime is featuring examples and tools focused on the Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) reports, and in particular how schools are embedding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their reports, but also into their schools. Hult International Business School (which incorporates Ashridge Executive Education) which has campuses in the United States, the United Kindgom, Dubai and China, has not only made sustainability but the SDGs a core focus of their programmes and are using their SIP report to influence these changes. I spoke with Matthew Gitsham about how they put together their report and the impact it has had on campus.

What approach did you take when preparing your report?

We started by doing a stakeholder review and materiality exercise: who are our key stakeholders as a business school? What are their concerns? What do they want to know about? What are the biggest priorities? Key stakeholder groups are obviously students and executive education clients, as well as employers of students. Also important are regulators and accreditation bodies, as well as employees, our local communities, and society at large. We found accreditation requirements on ethics, responsibility and sustainability a good framework that helped us talk about our work in a way that met the interests of all the stakeholder groups. This led us to structure our PRME report around: mission, strategy and governance; integration of PRME themes across our curriculum; extra-curricula activities; student diversity; research and faculty, campuses; and support for global initiatives.

How did you go about putting together the report itself?

We felt the most important of all these areas was the integration of PRME themes across our curriculum. We knew we had lots of individual success stories, but we also knew there were lots of courses that did not touch on PRME themes and really should. We have wanted to use the data collection for the PRME report as a way of helping drive the integration of the PRME themes across the curriculum, so as well as featuring individual success stories, we have also been quantifying what proportion of core courses on all programs include PRME themes in their curriculum and assessment – ie does it feature in strategy, marketing, leadership, accounting, managerial economics etc? We’ve been tracking this data in each PRME report and publishing the data in this way has been part of how we’ve encouraged more faculty to focus on this. We’ve been able to show, for example, that in 2016 12% of our MBA core courses included time spent on PRME themes, and by 2018 this had risen to 60%.

How did you approach the SDGs in your reporting?

We did a detailed review of the SDGs and all their targets when working out how to prepare our report. Obviously target #4.7 on Education for Sustainable Development is a core focus throughout all our work. We have also started mapping our research work against the SDGs it helps to contribute to. We have also mapped the SDGs that the Hult Prize has focused on each year. But the most impactful way the SDGs influenced our thinking was by drawing more attention to our approach to student diversity. Targets #4.4, #4.5 and #4.B all focus attention on who has access to quality education in the first place, and have encouraged us to act on and report on the gender balance on our programs, the proportion of students coming from developing countries (particularly African countries, Least Developed Countries, and Small Island Developing States), and the proportion of students receiving needs-based financial aid.

What parts of the report are you particularly proud of and why?

We are particularly proud of the detailed data we have collected on the integration of PRME themes into core courses on all degree programs and executive education programs – publishing this data in the public domain helps drive important conversations with faculty across the school about pushing further with PRME.

What were some of the challenges in putting the information together and how did you overcome these? Successes?

Much of the information is time consuming to compile, especially reviewing the course materials for every core course taught on every campus across every program. But it is worth the effort for the conversations and shifts in thinking it stimulates. One issue is that the focus on counting whether or not PRME themes appear in a course does not tell you very much about the quality of how well that was done, but still we think the benefits of trying to count integration are very useful.

How has the report been received? 

The main focus has been internal communication – the key information in the report has been discussed in many internal meetings. It has been formally raised and discussed at Curriculum Committee, Admissions Committee, Research Committee and Academic Board, where discussions about future targets have been had as well. It has also featured in several discussions at global and campus faculty meetings. Data on how well we’re doing on integrating PRME themes into curricula, assessment and research—where the success stories have been and where the gaps still are—has been really impactful in helping stimulate progress.

What’s next for your SIP?

Key focus areas for our next SIP will be to see the extent we’ve been able to make further progress on integrating PRME themes into curricula, assessment and research. We also plan to have more to say on student diversity and disabilities. What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place? We are particular advocates for trying to count the proportion of core courses that feature PRME themes in their curriculum and assessment. This is time consuming, but we think the benefits in terms of the conversations it stimulates are well worth the effort.

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