Defining sustainability

It is claimed there are about 500 definitions of sustainability, but in truth there are probably many more. The simplest, most understandable definition, is that proposed in the Brundtland Report:

Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable - to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Our Common Future - Report of the 1987 World Commission on Environment and Development

Image of: Considering Earth's finite resources

Considering Earth's finite resources

This is echoed in the UK Government's interpretation of sustainable development:

a better quality of life for everyone now and in the future

Chief Secretary, Andrew Smith MP, at the Sera Seminar, 13 May 2002

Image of: Rain forest

Rain forest

Sustainability and sustainable development differ:

  • sustainability is the desirable state of affairs we wish to achieve, and
  • sustainable development is the route we take to sustainability.


The EDC is involved with a wide variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at the University, which include elements of sustainability.

We highlight the courses that have a significant sustainability theme, i.e. those which address environmental, economic and social issues. More detailed lists of relevant courses are available here:

More about the programmes

Tree hugger

The Clean Technology MSc

This postgraduate degree specialises in placing students into industry for their research projects.

The students spend 3-4 months working for local companies tackling problems of concern to their employers. In most cases their projects are of benefit to the company. This gives students the opportunity to put theory into practice. Typical projects and outcomes.

More about the Clean Technology MSc

The MSc/Diploma in Sustainable Engineering

This is a one year taught course for graduate scientists and engineers with emphasis on training in advanced process and material engineering and process intensification skills for a sustainable future. The course has been designed to meet the growing need for engineers skilled in materials and process engineering.

More about the MSc/Diploma in Sustainable Engineering

Other teaching related activities

In addition to the taught programmes, wider sustainability initiatives are being developed on campus. These include the:

Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professorship in the Principles of Engineering Design for a Sustainable Future

RAE logo

The Royal Academy of Engineering funds a Visiting Professor (VP) and support team at Newcastle as part of a programme of VP's in Engineering Departments across the UK.

Find out more about the Academy's VP scheme, this will allow you to link with other participating universities across the UK.

At Newcastle, a collection of case-study based workshops has been developed for use at undergraduate and postgraduate level. The case studies are available for downloading as packaged workshops. Our VP, Professor Jeff Hulse, is supported by the sustainability@newcastle team, based in the EDC.

Contact the EDC

For further details of the EDC's activities please get in touch with us through our contact page.

Commercial Research at Newcastle University

A full list of commercially available research facilities for Newcastle University can be found on the Services for Business web pages.

Highlight for April 2008

Integrated Modelling for Strategic Planning

Strategic planning for sustainability requires complex systems to be modelled.

Because of this complexity, it is unrealistic to develop new and comprehensive models for each of the numerous possible situations likely to be encountered. Many models already exist ...

more ...

Previous highlights

About the Events Diary

Upcoming seminars

The EDC often hosts, arranges or is associated with a wide variety of seminars related to its activities.

These seminars (often in association with an engineering institute) are always open to students and staff at the university and often to the public.

Upcoming events will be listed on this website in the future. Please check back from time to time for updates.