Working with the divides

Helen Avery (Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Birgitta Nordén (Faculty of Education and Society, University of Malmö, Malmö, Sweden)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 3 July 2017



The paper aims to provide a conceptual map of how to mediate between sustainability theory and practice in higher education and how disciplinary divides can be bridged. It further looks at issues linked to knowledge views and drivers for institutional change that affect opportunities for whole institution development promoting action preparedness.


Taking its point of departure in the University Educators for Sustainable Development report UE4SD (2014, 2015), the paper discusses ways that ideas and interaction can be mediated in higher education settings, to connect sustainability research with vocational programmes. Different options are considered and compared.


Although the literature stresses both action orientation and the need for holistic transdisciplinary approaches, many institutional drivers limit opportunities for more integrating approaches.

Research limitations/implications

However, while conclusions may hold for universities at an overarching level, it is likely that certain research and teaching environments have been able to transcend such barriers.

Practical implications

Conceptually mapping the different forms that dialogue, interaction and flows of ideas take within higher education institutions has relevance for whole institution development for sustainability.

Social implications

Importantly, producing sustainability science with relevance to practice in various professions is a fundamental condition to support accelerated transitions to sustainability at societal levels.


The paper makes a significant contribution by focusing on concrete institutional pathways for knowledge exchange and negotiation that can support education for sustainability in higher education.



Avery, H. and Nordén, B. (2017), "Working with the divides", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 18 No. 5, pp. 666-680.

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