Seeking Justice through Interdisciplinary Environmental Education at Postgraduate Level: Lessons from Melbourne, Australia

Simon P. J. Batterbury, Maurizio Toscano


Masters degrees that offer a broad understanding of environmental issues have been taught in universities since the 1960s. As the problems, they address have increased in severity and become global in scale and reach, higher education offerings have flourished accordingly. Today, environmental Masters degrees offer a variety of specializations, are often embedded within university environmental institutes or centers, and they lead thousands of students into environmental careers, as activists, advocates, policymakers, technicians, resource managers, and researchers. They provide an opportunity to understand and critically debate mainstream concepts, like sustainability, the green economy, ecological resilience, environmental services, and good governance. The severity of environmental crises also requires a more radical curriculum: critiques of economic growth (including green growth), social and environmental justice, and the political ecology of unequal access to resources. In light of these complex demands and growing opportunities for environmental programs to address social and environmental justice, we discuss a unique and successful model for interdisciplinary environmental Masters teaching at a large Australian university that has juggled promotion of justice in its program along with meeting financial targets imposed by the neoliberal regime prevalent in Australia's underfunded higher education sector. The program has a distinctive approach to interdisciplinary learning, permitting a very wide range of student choice, and unified teaching efforts across ten Faculties. This has required agile administration, and strong defense of an unusual approach to the management of environmental pedagogy. The Master of Environment program illustrates how taught postgraduate programs can offer an alternative space for personal, institutional and environmental commitment to social and environmental justice.

Palabras clave

Training; Australia; Environmental education; Social justice; Higher education.

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