Organisational Change and Organisational Learning for Promoting Higher Education for Sustainable Development

Authored by: Paul Sylvestre , Tarah Wright

Routledge Handbook of Higher Education for Sustainable Development

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415727303
eBook ISBN: 9781315852249
Adobe ISBN: 9781317918110


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Realising organisational transformation for sustainability in higher education is a complex process fraught with resistance and ambiguity. While there are signs of promise in the proliferation of declarations for Higher Education for Sustainable Development (HESD), the growth in sustainability related courses and research, and the efforts taken by a number of campuses to green their operations (Hopkinson and James 2013; Luna and Maxey 2013; Sylvestre et al. 2013a; Wals 2014), HESD scholars and advocates criticise what they view as a ‘bolt-on’ approach to sustainability rather than a fundamental commitment to organisational transformation (Ferrer-Balas et al. 2010; Lotz-Sisitka 2004; Sterling 2004; Sterling 2010;Wals 2014). It is one thing for a university to become a signatory to a declaration, develop new course offerings or revamp pre-existing courses to incorporate sustainability related content, and undertake a series of energy efficiency retro-fits; it is another matter altogether to make concrete the forms of radical, whole institution transformations implied in the language of the HESD declarations and called for by many scholars in the field (Jickling and Wals 2008; Lozano 2006a; Sterling 2010; Velazquez et al. 2006). The former entails change that fits within pre-established norms of the institution, while the latter necessitates a complete re-envisioning of the fundamental norms and structural relations that in many ways culturally define contemporary universities (Cortese 2003; Sterling 2013; Tilbury 2013).

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