Sustainability Assessment in Higher Education Institutions

What and how?

Authored by: Christian Rammel , Luis Velázquez , Clemens Mader

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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Universities play a crucial role in promoting sustainability principles and should contribute to a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable society. They are essential drivers of education for sustainable development (ESD) and constitute fundamental vehicles to explore, test, develop and communicate conditions for transformative change (Disterheft et al. 2013; Leal Filho 2012). But before universities can really promote and drive sustainable development (SD), their sustainability activities must extend a still prevailing narrow perception of sustainability, limited to environmental issues or the simple integration of sustainability topics into existing curricula (Wals 2014; Leal Filho 2009). In order to incorporate SD into the daily life of universities, sustainability has to become mainstream and cannot be implemented as a simple ‘add-on’. This mainstreaming or institutionalising is only achieved, when the idea of SD is accepted and integrated into a universities’ culture and its day-to-day operations (Lozano 2006a). In short, SD must become an integrative and structural element of all aspects of higher education institutions (HEI) (Tilbury 2011). Without a whole-institution approach that aims at real change and a holistic integration of SD, university are caught in a crossfire of greenwashing, reductionist models and the increasing demand to produce knowledge and students simply for an economy based on unchallenged economic growth.

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