Education & Climate: The future of the planet in the french higher education system

Preparing French people to face climate change challenges

Preparing the economy for a changing world requires people to be well informed and educated about the challenges posed by climate change challenges. Based on this statement, The Shift Project aims to provide an overview of how climate change related topics are dealt with in the different higher education areas, and to analyse how the current generation is prepared for the challenges it will have to face.


The Energy transition is a matter of redefining the economy in a radical way, by aiming to incorporate and enquire on its physical foundations, which is essentially, today the use of fossil fuels, as well as many other finite natural resources.

All fields of knowledge are concerned by this transition: natural sciences, industrial and technological sciences but also, humanities (geography, history, economics, sociology, politics, arts…). A country cannot drive such a transition without ensuring the mandatory human resources. It is therefore essential for Universities to make sure that all educational programs are in line with this major national and global project. Otherwise, France could miss an opportunity to get the skills it needs.

Proposals and objectives

It seems that an increasing awareness of sustainable development issues in the broad sense is emerging, although the specific issues of climate and physical limits are not addressed as an integral part of it. There are still a few students trained, mainly because these topics are not integrated into the higher education curriculums. In addition, specialised curriculums remain the prerogative of a few students that are already interested and aware of sustainable development, CSR or climate.

The Shift Project approach and objectives:

The Shift Project wants to make a situational analysis of how these topics are addressed in the higher education system.

The purpose of this work is first to map the various higher education paths, together with the number of students in each of them. Then, to identify the current training initiatives related to climate change in higher education, and eventually to identify the overall needs by consulting some specialists and professionals from different disciplines.

This compilation work aims to establish a foundation that will enable higher education stakeholders to catch the issue and propose relevant answers.

Objectives of the Study:

1 / Propose an inventory on how climate issues are taken into account in the higher education system.

2/ Link this inventory with general issues faced in the society at a present time and in the future, both in terms of training, and therefore employment, and with France ability to meet its general targets.

3 / Provide the higher education system stakeholders with some elements to fuel a general discussion on this topic.

Download the summary for decision-makers on higher education and research topics

Summary for decision-makers


The project is piloted by Clémence Vorreux and Audrey Renaudin from the Shift’s team, but also Jacques Treiner and Félix Lallemand from the Expert Committee of the Shift :