Inspired and Informed Futures

Inspiring students, citizens and communities to address sustainability challenges through knowledge and skills required to understand problems and create solutions to them.

This Sustainable Futures theme translates the University’s world leading research on sustainability into education that can inspire and inform sustainability action. Creating sustainable futures is a collective endeavour that requires everyone to play a part. Education is central to this mission. In order to be able to take action people need to be able to understand different kinds of sustainability challenges. These range from things that they can see and readily experience like heatwaves and single use plastics, through to largely invisible longer-term threats like biodiversity loss and the greenhouse effect. Sustainability requires new ways of thinking that can relate all elements of the biosphere with the huge range of human actors and actions that affect it.

Our first goal is to drive the creation of world-leading content that is innovative, accessible and highly interdisciplinary. We want to offer all students, both in Manchester and around the world, as well as interested citizens and communities, cutting-edge information and knowledge about sustainability challenges.

Our second goal is to inspire action to address sustainability challenges, offering a forum for students, staff and communities from outside the University to share effective and creative ways in which to make change, whether through personal or professional actions. We want to harness approaches like applied learning, distance learning, living labs, continuing professional development and e-learning to reach larger and more diverse audiences.

Our final goal is to bridge research and teaching, providing a vehicle to bring sustainability research, education and action together in new and creative ways. Sustainability research is inherently applied and challenges many of the ways in which universities traditionally work. This theme aims to foster research-led teaching, teaching-led research and collaboration across the various faculties and functions of the University, from estates and procurement to public engagement and employability and indeed beyond, to stake holders across the world and, as a Civic University, particularly across Greater Manchester.

Case Studies


Inspired and Informed Futures Challenge Lead

Dr. Jennifer O’Brien, Academic Lead for Sustainability Teaching and Learning at The University of Manchester, Principal Fellow of Advance HE and an Inaugural Fellow of the Manchester Institute of Teaching and Learning.

Jen directs the University Living Lab which links applied research needed by organisations with students who can undertake it for their assessment to effect change. Working with Education for Sustainable Development particularly through the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, Jen believes that students are a huge force for change. A development geographer by training, Jen’s interdisciplinary research focuses on sustainable development, particularly within marginalised communities. Stemming from her research, Jen is interested in the intersection between innovative pedagogy and independent field or applied research. Jen inspires and equips learners to ethically address challenges of sustainability, inequality and social justice to affect positive change.