Why students are getting serious about sustainability

More and more students are looking to integrate an understanding of sustainability into their profession. Learn how this is changing institutions across Australia and what we’re doing to help.


There’s never been a more vital time to get familiar with the concept of sustainability. As discussions and attention shift to how we can all minimise our impact on the planet, more and more Australians are turning to sustainability as a guiding principle for how they live, affecting what they buy, what they eat, how they vote and how they travel. 

Crucially for educators, this new focus on sustainability is also driving a shift in what students want to learn. With nine out of ten Australians saying they are personally concerned about sustainability and more than 85% of millennials saying they would choose an employer based on their sustainable practices, educators and institutions need to grapple with this concept in and out of the classroom and embody it in everything they do.

At Open Universities Australia (OUA), we’re passionate about helping every student succeed on their study journey. We’re proud to say we champion sustainability as an organisation, and wanted to share a few insights we’ve gleaned working alongside students passionate about changing our society for the better. 

What is sustainability? 

Sustainability is a broad concept that encompasses a variety of political beliefs, economic theories and approaches. Because of its breadth, it’s been unfairly dismissed by some commentators as a buzzword—a catch-all for otherwise unrelated ideas united only by this one label. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Sustainability is a flexible concept. It provides a framework to help us answer the question ‘can we really do this forever?’ What ‘this’ is can change—sustainability has already been used to help us examine agricultural practices, building design, infrastructure and urban planning, consumer manufacturing and food production, providing a lens through which we can reassess old assumptions about how we run our world. 

What’s driving this shift? 

It’s exactly for this reason that students are looking for sustainability education—they see it as a powerful tool to help them drive change in their chosen profession or area of study. Previously, many industries saw questions around sustainability and environmental friendliness as a roadblock to progress, but emerging leaders today instead view it as a key driver of innovation that forces us to think in new and exciting ways about legacy industries. 

Behind this new push for innovation is a simple concern for our environment. More Australians are wary about the impact of climate change on our world than ever before, with polls indicating that more than half of the country would be willing to take action to combat it now even if it involves serious costs. 

These concerns trickle down into people’s everyday actions. As a recent example, the beginning of 2021 has been marked by an increase in the amount of interest in sustainability-related trade courses, showing just how universal concern for sustainability is and how hungry people are for ways to practice it in their own lives and professions. 

How are institutions responding? 

Responding to the passion of their incoming students, many educational institutions are putting a renewed focus on sustainability across a variety of disciplines. Courses now incorporate everything from building more environmentally-friendly cities to designing drought-tolerant agriculture as educators work to ensure sustainability is included in their curriculums. 

OUA can help guide you towards a career rooted in sustainability. From undergraduate arts degrees focused on sustainable development to postgraduate certifications that directly address the challenges our society faces in an era of climate change, OUA offers a broad array of options. Study sustainability online through OUA with leading universities and see where your education could take you. 

Sustainability FAQs

What faculties offer sustainability courses? 
Sustainability has become a focus in many different faculties at many universities. While  environmental sustainability is one available option, courses in other areas such as engineering, the arts, occupational health and safety, agribusiness and others also feature the subject.

What do I need to study sustainability? 
Prerequisites for study will vary between qualifications, so please review the entry requirements section on the relevant qualification for specific information. 

Do I need to enrol in a degree to study sustainability? 
No! Sustainability is an area of study in many diplomas, certificates and single subjects, meaning that even if you aren’t looking for an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification you too can study sustainability. 

What jobs can I get with a qualification that incorporates sustainability?
Sustainability has broad utility. With the right qualification and mindset, it can potentially open doors across a number of industries for graduates, including:

  • engineering
  • government 
  • healthcare
  • agriculture
  • ecology and land management 
  • transport and logistics

How can I find courses that cover sustainability? 

Simply search for 'sustainability' in the search bar above and we'll let you know which degrees and subjects include content on sustainability.