The Golden Dandelion: Awarding excellent modules in sustainability

Friday 27 August 2021

The Golden Dandelion stamp is a new scheme that recognises excellent sustainability modules in the curriculum at the University of St Andrews. It helps students finding interdisciplinary, innovative and creative ways of developing their skills in sustainability and inspires staff to incorporate these themes in their teaching.


When deciding on a winning module of the Sustainability in the Curriculum prize, the jury found many nominees to go over and beyond the prize criteria. These modules challenged our traditional understanding of teaching sustainability and concluded that excellent learning in sustainability does not only take place in one, but in several modules and schools across the University. The nominees came from different disciplines, had different ways of teaching and different areas of focus. What the applications had in common was their determination to enhance competencies for a sustainable world. To showcase their hard work and the opportunities they provide for students and staff, the Golden Dandelion was introduced.


From now on, the modules which are submitted to the Sustainability in the Curriculum Prize and meet QAA’s criteria for excellent education in sustainable development, will be rewarded a Golden Dandelion. The dandelion is a guiding stamp for academic advisors, staff and students. It helps them find, deliver and choose an education where key competencies in sustainability can be developed and skills in environmental literacy enhanced.


So, why a golden dandelion?

The dandelion is a pioneering plant found in temperate zones around the world. It is one of the first plants to flower in spring, offering sustenance to pollinating bees when few other flowers are available. Its golden colour is a cheerful and frequent presence in gardens, parks, along roadsides and in natural areas. It roots deeply. In summer and autumn, the beautiful seed heads disperse widely. Whilst some people think of it as a weed, once they learn more about it, they usually grow to love it. It has benefits which are unexpected for some people. It has been used by humans for many purposes and in many different cultures. Fresh green leaves can be used in a salad; dandelion tea can act as a digestive tonic; the roots can be made into a coffee substitute. The dandelion is thus a good symbol for seeding, nourishing and disseminating sustainability in the curriculum. At the University of St Andrews, we use it as a symbol to showcase excellent sustainability modules in the curriculum.


Below are the modules which were submitted for the Sustainability in the Curriculum Prize 2020-21 and assessed as worthy of the Golden Dandelion stamp. Remember that some modules at the University may not hold the Golden Dandelion stamp but are still excellent in learning for sustainability – they have just not yet been submitted or assessed for the Award!

If you are staff, consider how your module might be made eligible for a Golden Dandelion. If you are a student, use this list to explore new innovative learning in sustainability.


The modules receiving the Golden Dandelion this year are:

CL4467: Classics for the Modern World: Interventions and Applications

[Winner of Sustainability in the Curriculum Prize 2021]

An excellent, cohesive, and interdisciplinary connection of ancient studies to real-world and current considerations of sustainability, requiring innovative thinking and highlighting the relevance of classical studies to the modern world.

Vertically integrated Projects: Biodiversity Literacy

Through interaction, we take action. VIP: Biodiversity Literacy engages students from all disciplines with the basic and very necessary skill: to identify what we are seeing in nature. It fosters system thinking and skills beyond an academic setting by introducing capabilities to develop long term positive contributions to building sustainability.

SD4225: Green Politics: Theory & Practice

This module was particularly impressive in the way it bridges between the real world and the more theoretical approaches in the literature. This enables and enhances the focus on self-awareness competencies.

SD3111: Home & Energy Geographies

This module provides a global to local context of energy and the specific challenges faced with energy demand. The module provides students with practical examples using unique, creative and engaging teaching styles.

BL5304: Ecosystem-based Management of Marine Systems

This module provides a holistic view of sustainability in teaching practices for managing marine system production from an ecosystem perspective, grounded strongly in real-world applications with innovative teaching and assessments.

SA4064: The Anthropology of Energy

This module provides an innovative approach – both in its curriculum design and its ways of combining interdisciplinarity – to connecting sustainability in the real-world concerns of meeting global energy demands alongside concerns for climate change.

EN3202: Literature and Ecology

An excellent and unique perspective on sustainability through the lens of literature and considering how communication influences our perceptions.

DI3717: Holy Scripture, Sacred Earth: The Bible and Ecology

The focus of the module on practical sustainable behaviours combines competencies in self-awareness and alongside a strategic approaches that are drawn from a wide disciplinary background in an innovative way.

MN5311: Responsible Investment 

This module creates understanding between the challenges of Social Responsibility within an economically driven world. It explains the need for changing this model to incorporate social and environmental sustainability into decision making, using clear real world examples.

IR4514: Global Public Policy

This module is a welcome addition to the University’s growing suite of modules with strong intellectual and critical analysis of policy in relation to selected sustainability issues.

IE0101: Communicating in Academic Contexts 

This module shows a really good method to embed sustainability within other learning: by focussing a project around reporting on St Andrews’ sustainability effort, it both meets the module goals of teaching communication and listening in academic contexts, and exposes students to real-world issues in sustainability.

MN2002: The Management Kaleidoscope

This module puts the human and non-human relationship in focus by challenging management and organisations as well as equipping students with critical thinking tools. It introduces students to vegan business and economy and fills an important gap in the discussion of how sustainable management.


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