Sustainability incorporated into RCOT learning and development standards

Ben Whittaker
Ben Whittaker • 10 December 2019

The new RCOT learning and development standards have been published, which you can find here.  They state that sustainability issues need to be addressed in occupational therapy curricula. 

Standard 4.4 (on page 34) is titled 'The curriculum must remain relevant to current practice'.  Under this is the statement, "Programme documentation incorporates the five guiding principles for sustainability in occupational therapy practice, education and scholarship (WFOT 2018)."

The WFOT sustainability guiding principles can be found here and are as follows:

  • Principle 1: Understanding sustainability - An occupational therapy perspective
  • Principle 2: The role of occupational therapy in Contributing towards mitigation of environmental damage due to unsustainable lifestyles  
  • Principle 3: Helping occupational therapy service users adapt to the consequences of environmental damage due to unsustainability
  • Principle 4: Community unsustainability in the face of environmental catastrophes
  • Principle 5: Developing professional competence for administration of occupation-based interventions to address sustainability issues

A number of UK universities are already addressing these issues in their occupational therapy programmes.  For example, the University of Brighton has integrated sustainability issues throughout their problem based learning programme, and identified which parts of their curricula map onto each of the five WFOT guiding principles.  Other universities addressing addressing sustainability issues in their curricula include Canterbury Christ Church, Coventry and UEA.  Members of the occupational therapy departments at these universities are part of a sustainability working group for education.  

The Council of Occupational Therapy Education Directors endorses the role of staff and student Sustainable Healthcare Education (SHE) representatives at each university, with a view to them joining the sustainability working group for occupational therapy education.  If anyone reading this would like to be an SHE rep for your occupational therapy department and/or let us know about how your occupational therapy programme is addressing sustainability issues then please email me at

We have a voluntary role at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare for someone to develop in-depth case studies about occupational therapy programmes incorporating sustainability issues, and to pool educational resources.  If you are keen to be an Occupational Therapy Sustainability Volunteer and work in this area then do get in touch.  

And for those of you that may not have seen it, here is Jenny Rickard's post from May 2018 about how to apply the WFOT sustainbility guiding principles to UK education:


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