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Assessment tools’ indicators for sustainability in universities: an analytical overview

Naif Alghamdi (Department of Architecture and Building Science, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
Alexandra den Heijer (Department of Management in the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands)
Hans de Jonge (Department of Management in the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 3 January 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyse 12 assessment tools of sustainability in universities and develop the structure and the contents of these tools to be more intelligible. The configuration of the tools reviewed highlight indicators that clearly communicate only the essential information. This paper explores how the theoretical concept of a sustainable university is translated into more measurable variables to support practitioners and academics in assessing sustainability in universities.

Design/methodology/approach

The main method for this paper was a desk study approach, which incorporated reviewing research papers, graduate theses, academic books, network platforms and websites.

Findings

The tools reviewed share similar traits in terms of criteria, sub-criteria and indicators. Five benchmarks are essential for a holistic framework: management; academia; environment; engagement and innovation.

Practical implications

This research can not only be used to improve existing assessment tools but also as a means to develop new tools tailored for universities that face a variety of challenges and lack the ability to measure their sustainability policies.

Social implications

Making higher education more sustainable through all the criteria mentioned influences students, as well as staff, to maintain a culture of sustainability.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the literature by simplifying and detailing the structure and contents of the tools in a way which indicators are shown, giving a full picture of these tools to enable universities to be more aware of the sustainability issues that affect them.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr Rodrigo Lozano – from Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, The Netherlands – for his input in developing this paper.

Citation

Alghamdi, N., den Heijer, A. and de Jonge, H. (2017), "Assessment tools’ indicators for sustainability in universities: an analytical overview", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 84-115. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-04-2015-0071

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited