To read this content please select one of the options below:

An international comparative analysis of sustainability transformation across seven universities

D. Ferrer‐Balas (Center for Sustainability, Technical University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain)
J. Adachi (Kyoto Sustainability Initiative, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan)
S. Banas (American Association for the Advancement of Science, Center for Science, Technology, and Sustainability, Washington, DC, USA)
C.I. Davidson (Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
A. Hoshikoshi (Transdisciplinary Initiative for Global Sustainability (TIGS), Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S), The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan)
A. Mishra (Department of Policy Studies, Faculty of Policy & Planning, TERI University, New Delhi, India)
Y. Motodoa (Sustainability Governance Project, Creative Research Initiative “Sousei”, Hokkaido University, Hokkaido, Japan)
M. Onga (Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan)
M. Ostwald (Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 11 July 2008




The purpose of this paper is to identify the key aspects of transformation of universities towards sustainability, such as the ideal characteristics of the “sustainable university”, and the drivers and barriers in the transformation, by comparing the strategies of seven universities world‐wide.


A systems transformation analysis of seven case studies has been applied through a self‐evaluation based on the tridimensional Framework‐Level‐Actors (FLA) method.


The study shows that none of the three dimensions of change is predominant over the others. The main barrier to be overcome is the lack of incentive structure for promoting changes at the individual level. The main drivers for change are the presence of “connectors” with society, the existence of coordination bodies and projects, and the availability of funding, all of which are important for progress. Enhancing interdisciplinarity is a strategic objective at almost all of these universities, while transformative learning is less present. A common characteristic for most of the institutions is establishing and supporting networks of expertise within the universities. These universities show important strategic efforts and initiatives that drive and nucleate change for sustainable development, the result of a combination of drivers.

Practical implications

The FLA‐method has proved useful for being used at the level of comparing case‐studies through a bird's‐eye perspective.


The paper demonstrates the application of a simple tool that gives a global perspective on transformational strategies used in seven cases world‐wide in the search for commonalities and differences.



Ferrer‐Balas, D., Adachi, J., Banas, S., Davidson, C.I., Hoshikoshi, A., Mishra, A., Motodoa, Y., Onga, M. and Ostwald, M. (2008), "An international comparative analysis of sustainability transformation across seven universities", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 295-316.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles