The purpose of this paper is to examine how a cohort of university presidents and vice‐presidents in Canadian universities conceptualize sustainable development, sustainable universities, the role universities play in achieving a sustainable future, key issues facing the university, and the barriers to implementing sustainability initiatives on campus.
The research comprises in‐depth interviews with university presidents (rectors) and vice‐presidents from Talloires Declaration signatory universities in Canada. Interviews include both closed and open‐ended questions and two checklists focused on sustainable development and sustainable universities. Interview transcripts are analyzed through the identification of respondent themes.
The majority of participants are well versed in the concept of sustainable development, but less familiar with the concept of a sustainable university. The majority are dedicated to having their university become more sustainable. The most significant constraints to moving toward sustainability reported are financial predicaments, lack of understanding and awareness of sustainability issues amongst the university population, and a resistance to change.
While higher education scholars have a reasonably common conceptualization of sustainable development and what constitutes a “sustainable university”, there are few studies to date that investigate the level of sustainability knowledge of the major stakeholders within the university, or that examine what stakeholders feel is the role of the university in creating a sustainable future. If the university is tasked with responsibilities for creating a sustainable future, it is essential that all university stakeholders have a common understanding of the term sustainable development. This paper attempts to make a contribution to this significant gap in the literature.
Wright, T. (2010), "University presidents' conceptualizations of sustainability in higher education", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 61-73. https://doi.org/10.1108/14676371011010057Download as .RIS
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