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Transition communities and the glass ceiling of environmental sustainability policies at three universities

Miguel Pardellas Santiago (Department of Educational Theory, History and Social Pedagogy, University of Santiago de Compostela , Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Pablo Meira Cartea (Department of Educational Theory, History and Social Pedagogy, University of Santiago de Compostela , Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Lucía Iglesias da Cunha (Department of Educational Theory, History and Social Pedagogy, University of Santiago de Compostela , Santiago de Compostela, Spain)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 2 May 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper deals with the experiences of three European universities that have implemented transition initiatives, using the Transition Network’s methodology to promote their sustainability plans. The Transition Communities’ model for change is presented from a socio-educational perspective as an effective methodology for encouraging university environmental sustainability processes. In this context, the purpose of this paper was to analyze Transition Communities at universities using an environmental–educational approach in three different scenarios: the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela (USC), the University of Edinburgh (UEd) and the Universidade do Minho (UMinho).

Design/methodology/approach

The authors engaged in a comparative analysis of multiple case studies in the Transition “phenomenon”, looking for convergences and divergences among them.

Findings

The comparative analysis revealed three very different scenarios, which ironically shared an absence of explicit theoretical–methodological references in the design, execution and evaluation of the educational actions that were implemented. Examination of the impact and continuity of these initiatives uncovered the existence of a “glass ceiling” in university environmental sustainability strategies. Even the innovative Transition methodology was unable to subvert the established academic, corporate, organizational and cultural structures and dynamics that perpetuate unsustainability.

Originality/value

This study was carried out from an innovative perspective with few precedents in the Transition context. The authors’ educational–environmental approach provides insight for articulating educational strategies for environmental sustainability at universities and for constructing a Transition model for education.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study on Transition Communities by the Universities of Santiago de Compostela, Minho and Edinburgh would not have been possible without the invaluable collaboration of those who actively participated in the development of these initiatives. The authors are sincerely grateful to these individuals for the information they provided, for how they so warmly welcomed this research project and for their interest in the results.

Citation

Pardellas Santiago, M., Meira Cartea, P. and Iglesias da Cunha, L. (2017), "Transition communities and the glass ceiling of environmental sustainability policies at three universities", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 576-593. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-05-2015-0088

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited