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Knowledge, attitude and practice toward sustainability among university students in UAE

Ahmed Farouk Radwan (College of Communication, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)
Engy M. Abou Sreea Khalil (College of Communication, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 18 June 2021

Issue publication date: 16 August 2021




This paper aims to assess the level of knowledge, attitudes and practices adopted among University of Sharjah (UOS) students toward sustainability efforts done by their university.


An online survey was emailed to students with the assistance of the UOS Sustainability Office. The survey consisted of four sections assessing knowledge, attitudes, practices and preferred media to obtain sustainability information. A total of 200 responses from male and female students, representing 4 levels of study in sciences and humanities colleges, were received. Research data is analyzed using the IBM SPSS Statistics (version 26). For assessing knowledge, eight items were developed to measure if the student knew about the university’s projects and activities in the field of sustainability. For assessing attitudes, six items were developed to indicate the level of agreement or disagreement toward main sustainability issues. For assessing practices, ten items were developed to measure the frequency of acting in a sustainable manner.


Survey results showed an advanced level of basic knowledge among university students regarding the programs and activities conducted by UOS, and a positive attitude toward these efforts and toward the importance of supporting sustainable practices. Most of the participating students disagreed with limiting the use of cars on campus – this may be because of a cultural aspect among young people in the Emirati society, who consider driving cars as an essential part of their daily life. Most students also indicated that they care about the behavior that supports sustainability in the university environment, such as rationalizing water consumption and using environment friendly products.

Research limitations/implications

The study’s limitations are that it was applied to one university – UOS. The sample of the online survey was only 200 students from undergraduate students. Different universities may have their own sets of different environmental approaches, and because of this reason, university students may exhibit different levels of knowledge, attitude and practice toward sustainability in contrast to the findings from this study.

Practical implications

Findings from this research can give decision-makers a good picture of the university’s performance in accomplishing sustainability. The authors recommend that UOS sustainability communication programs should be more comprehensive, and not only limited to protecting the environment that some students perceive as the primary aspect of sustainability. These efforts must address all economic and social aspects emphasized by the United Arab Emirates 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the current study is considered one of the first studies addressing sustainability efforts in Emirati universities and seeking to assess the level of student knowledge, attitudes and practices toward sustainability issues in the country. The study is crucial in providing better insights such as the level of knowledge, attitude and practices toward UOS sustainability performance. As found in this study, even with sufficient knowledge, students still lack the drive to convert them into actions. So, future research could investigate deeper into the barriers of converting sustainable knowledge and attitudes into practices. The results represent an added value to the research literature concerned with sustainability issues in the Arab world and the Middle East region. This paper will also contribute to the sustainability literature that will be benefited by other various organizations.



This paper forms part of a special section “Sustainability Literacy: Faculty, Staff, and Students as Agents of Change”, guest edited by Ira Feldman and Todd LeVasseur.


Radwan, A.F. and Khalil, E.M.A.S. (2021), "Knowledge, attitude and practice toward sustainability among university students in UAE", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 964-981.



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