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Sustainability practices at higher education institutions in Asia

Walter Leal Filho (European School of Sustainability Science and Research (ESSSR), Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg, Germany and Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)
Maria Alzira Pimenta Dinis (UFP Energy, Environment and Health Research Unit (FP-ENAS), University Fernando Pessoa (UFP), Porto, Portugal)
Subarna Sivapalan (Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning/Centre for Social Innovation, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Seri Iskandar, Malaysia)
Halima Begum (School of Economics, Finance and Banking (SEFB), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Sintok, Malaysia)
Theam Foo Ng (Centre for Global Sustainability Studies (CGSS), Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia)
Abul Quasem Al-Amin (Department of Geography and Environmental Management, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada and Centre for Asian Climate and Environmental Policy Studies, University Avenue West, Windsor, Canada)
Gazi Mahabubul Alam (Department of Foundation of Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Malaysia)
Ayyoob Sharifi (Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Network for Education and Research on Peace and Sustainability, Hiroshima University, Higashi-Hiroshima, Japan)
Amanda Lange Salvia (Graduate Program in Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Passo Fundo, São José, Brazil)
Qudsia Kalsoom (Department of Educational Leadership and Management, School of Education, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan)
Mustafa Saroar (Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Khulna University of Engineering and Technology, Khulna, Bangladesh)
Samara Neiva (Graduate Program in University Management, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 18 November 2021

Issue publication date: 26 July 2022




It is still unclear how Asian universities incorporate the theory or practice of sustainable development (SD) in their research and education programmes. To address this gap, the purpose of this paper is to report on a study that has examined how universities in Asian countries handle and address matters related to SD.


The study used a bibliometric analysis and an online survey-method. The online survey data were analysed through descriptive analysis and one-sample student’s t-test.


The study indicates that there is considerable variation among the Asian countries regarding sustainability practices in higher education institutions (HEIs). The HEIs in far eastern countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are perceived to demonstrate more sustainability practices.

Research limitations/implications

Even though a substantial number of participants participated in the survey, it did not cover all Asian countries. The online survey was carried out over a limited period of time, and not all HEIs in the field may have received information about the study.

Practical implications

Asia is the largest continent facing a number of sustainability challenges. In this context, the contribution of HEIs is very important. The findings of the current study may serve as a baseline for Asian HEIs to take more initiatives towards SD goals, as HEIs are responsible for the education and training of hundreds of thousands of students who will be occupying key positions in industry, government or education in the coming years.


The study contributes to the existing literature in two distinct ways. First, it was possible to develop a comprehensive instrument to measure sustainability practices in HEIs. Second, this study has filled the gap of the scarcity of studies regarding sustainability practices in HEIs in Asia.



Competing interests statement: The authors declare no competing interests.


Leal Filho, W., Dinis, M.A.P., Sivapalan, S., Begum, H., Ng, T.F., Al-Amin, A.Q., Alam, G.M., Sharifi, A., Salvia, A.L., Kalsoom, Q., Saroar, M. and Neiva, S. (2022), "Sustainability practices at higher education institutions in Asia", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 23 No. 6, pp. 1250-1276.



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