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Higher education as a change agent for sustainability in different cultures and contexts

Jennie C. Stephens (Department of International Development, Community, and Environment, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA)
Maria E. Hernandez (Centro de Ingeniería Ambiental, Universidad Tecnológica Nacional, Regional Tucumán, SM de Tucuman, Argentina)
Mikael Román (Stockholm Environmental Institute, Stockholm, Sweden)
Amanda C. Graham (Education Office, Energy Initiative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
Roland W. Scholz (Institute for Environmental Decisions, Zurich, Switzerland)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 11 July 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The goal of this paper is to enhance consideration for the potential for institutions of higher education throughout the world, in different cultures and contexts, to be change agents for sustainability. As society faces unprecedented and increasingly urgent challenges associated with accelerating environmental change, resource scarcity, increasing inequality and injustice, as well as rapid technological change, new opportunities for higher education are emerging.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper builds on the emerging literature on transition management and identifies five critical issues to be considered in assessing the potential for higher education as a change agent in any particular region or place. To demonstrate the value of these critical issues, exemplary challenges and opportunities in different contexts are provided.

Findings

The five critical issues include regional‐specific dominant sustainability challenges, financing structure and independence, institutional organization, the extent of democratic processes, and communication and interaction with society.

Originality/value

Given that the challenges and opportunities for higher education as a change agent are context‐specific, identifying, synthesizing, and integrating common themes is a valuable and unique contribution.

Keywords

Citation

Stephens, J.C., Hernandez, M.E., Román, M., Graham, A.C. and Scholz, R.W. (2008), "Higher education as a change agent for sustainability in different cultures and contexts", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 317-338. https://doi.org/10.1108/14676370810885916

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited