|The oldest university in central Europe, Charles University was founded on 7 April 1348 by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. Today, Charles University has 17 faculties with 40,000 students and about 6,000 staff. For more information about Charles University please see http://www.cuni.cz/.
The Charles University Environment Center (CUEC) was founded in 1992 as part of Charles University and hence celebrated its 20thanniversary this year. Its aim was to promote sustainable development in the higher education and to a wider public. The CUEC comprises three departments: environmental economics, environmental indicators, and education, which deals with education for sustainable development issues. A small team of 3‑4 people has been attempting to bring innovations into the Czech educational system and to promote systemic change at all levels. These intended innovations are geared toward a transition to sustainable development and support for democratically oriented competences and processes within education itself. This area includes the systemic building of open education resources their use as part of our teaching/learning activities (e-learning courses held within an international network of cooperation e.g. the Virtual Campus for a Sustainable Europe). It has also been involved in fruitful cooperation with a range of domestic actors as part of its national Czech projects (e.g. MOSUR http://mosur.czp.cuni.cz/index.php/en/) and new forms of transboundary scientific work are currently being tested; these are oriented toward transformation where science is supposed to produce reflexive feedback and its outcomes are generated in a process of co-production with diverse actors. Efforts to bring about systemic change in the educational system include involvement in expert teams with both the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment focused on the development of a national strategy for ESD and environmental education. The CUEC has also been involved in a number of EU and other international funded projects over the years (including the currently operating Interdisciplinary Study Programme on Sustainability run in conjunction with the Leuphana University of Lüneburg). It has recently been working toward strengthening alliances with a host of Central and Eastern European universities, as well some Western universities with internationally recognised expertise in ESD to ensure on-going cooperation in spreading and strengthening ESD capability and capacity in the most recently democratised part of Europe.
An important part of the CUEC’s work is support for different communication processes: either within the academic community (a Forum of University teachers since 1993), and beyond (voluntary work in the civic sector). To expand scientific dialogue on environmental and SD education themes (which did not previously exist in the Czech Republic) the CUEC established the peer reviewed journal Envigogika in 2006 (http://www.envigogika.cuni.cz) where there is on-going discussion on goals, methods and evaluation procedures in EE and ESD (3 issues per year).
Recent CUEC ESD products include several methodologies (four different methodological materials for the incorporation of different innovations into teaching/learning certified by the Czech Ministry of Environment), and preparation of a special issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production called Learning for Sustainable Development in Regional Networks. Future plans include cooperation with Czech regions to develop local knowledge in the form of regional case studies and support for communication processes between a range of actors where an academic institution plays the role of a catalyser of social learning processes and analyses their outcomes. Activities in the field of EE and ESD are highly dependent on the political environment (its work is financed almost exclusively from grants) which unfortunately is currently unfavourable in the Czech Republic.
The Charles University Environment Center's role in the UNICO projectThe CUEC is responsible for monitoring the overall sustainability of the project and hence is in charge of formulating a project sustainability plan, including quality assurance and evaluation plans. As project sustainability is closely associated with dissemination of project outputs and outcomes to target audiences, it also plays a role in the dissemination group. Finally, it has responsibility for overseeing the creation of the project website and facilitating the development of the post-implementation UNICO web pages and individual Centre of Excellence web sites at the individual university partners, and providing IT training for English teaching purposes.