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Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Assessing the Contribution of Higher Education Programmes

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  • Vasiliki Kioupi

    () (Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, London SW7 1NE, UK)

  • Nikolaos Voulvoulis

    () (Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, London SW7 1NE, UK)

Abstract

Universities are engines of societal transformation and can nurture future citizens and navigate them towards sustainability through their educational programmes. Here, we developed an assessment framework for educational institutions to evaluate the contribution of their educational programmes to sustainability by reviewing the alignment of their intended learning outcomes to the enabling conditions for a vision of sustainability based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The tool is based on a systemic grouping of the SDGs into eight sustainability attributes, namely, Safe Operating Space, Just Operating Space, Resilient Sustainable Behaviours, Alternative Economic Models, Health and Wellbeing, Collaboration, Diversity and Inclusion, and Transparency and Governance, and uses a word code developed specifically for each sustainability attribute to assess the coverage of the SDGs in master’s programmes’ learning outcomes. The tool uses multi-criteria analysis to compare and rank programmes according to the alignment of their learning outcomes to the sustainability attributes and their contribution to sustainability. It was first tested using data from a University’s eighteen master’s programmes on a range of subjects and subsequently applied to compare forty UK and European master’s programmes focusing on environment and sustainability. Findings demonstrate that even environmental programmes face some important gaps related to health, wellbeing, diversity, inclusion, and collaboration, amongst others, and reinforce the need for all universities to understand the contribution of their programmes to sustainability. The application of the tool can generate empirical evidence on the effectiveness of university programmes and establish a strong argument regarding the potential of education as a tool for achieving the SDGs.

Suggested Citation

  • Vasiliki Kioupi & Nikolaos Voulvoulis, 2020. "Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Assessing the Contribution of Higher Education Programmes," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(17), pages 1-17, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:12:y:2020:i:17:p:6701-:d:400825
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lauri Lidstone & Tarah Wright & Kate Sherren, 2015. "An analysis of Canadian STARS-rated higher education sustainability policies," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 259-278, April.
    2. Antonio-Manuel Rodríguez-García & Jesús López Belmonte & Miriam Agreda Montoro & Antonio-José Moreno-Guerrero, 2019. "Productive, Structural and Dynamic Study of the Concept of Sustainability in the Educational Field," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(20), pages 1-12, October.
    3. Vasiliki Kioupi & Nikolaos Voulvoulis, 2019. "Education for Sustainable Development: A Systemic Framework for Connecting the SDGs to Educational Outcomes," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(21), pages 1-18, November.
    4. M. Teresa Fuertes-Camacho & Mariona Graell-Martín & Mariana Fuentes-Loss & M. Carmen Balaguer-Fàbregas, 2019. "Integrating Sustainability into Higher Education Curricula through the Project Method, a Global Learning Strategy," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(3), pages 1-25, February.
    5. Stephen Hinchliffe & Mark A. Jackson & Katrina Wyatt & Anne E. Barlow & Manuela Barreto & Linda Clare & Michael H. Depledge & Robin Durie & Lora E. Fleming & Nick Groom & Karyn Morrissey & Laura Salis, 2018. "Healthy publics: enabling cultures and environments for health," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(1), pages 1-10, December.
    6. Tina Lynn Evans, 2019. "Competencies and Pedagogies for Sustainability Education: A Roadmap for Sustainability Studies Program Development in Colleges and Universities," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(19), pages 1-36, October.
    7. Francisco Zamora-Polo & Jesús Sánchez-Martín & Mario Corrales-Serrano & Luis Espejo-Antúnez, 2019. "What Do University Students Know about Sustainable Development Goals? A Realistic Approach to the Reception of this UN Program Amongst the Youth Population," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(13), pages 1-19, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Raluca Ignat & Marius Constantin, 2020. "Multidimensional Facets of Entrepreneurial Resilience during the COVID-19 Crisis through the Lens of the Wealthiest Romanian Counties," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(23), pages 1-1, December.
    2. Hyehyun Hong & Suman Lee & Qianqian Tian, 2020. "The Influence of International Education Experience on Host Country-Related Outcomes: An Analysis of Chinese Students’ Relationships with South Korean Universities," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(22), pages 1-1, November.
    3. Natividad Blasco & Isabel Brusca & Margarita Labrador, 2020. "Drivers for Universities’ Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals: An Analysis of Spanish Public Universities," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(1), pages 1-1, December.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); assessment framework; learning outcomes; sustainability attributes; master’s programmes;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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