To read this content please select one of the options below:

Higher education in turbulent times: navigating the transition from un-sustainability in a world dominated by technology

Therese Hume (Department of Computing and Electronic Engineering, Atlantic Technological University – Sligo, Sligo, Ireland)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 22 August 2022

Issue publication date: 5 January 2023




The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the implications for higher education of a rapidly changing global context, where technologies play a role in the propagation of unsustainable patterns of change. Drawing from research on science and technology studies as well as existing work on (higher) education for sustainability, it seeks to expose the multidimensional nature of these patterns to raise a series of questions for educators, particularly those in engineering, computer science and other technical disciplines, and inform structured curricular and organisational interventions.


Theoretical perspectives on unsustainable patterns of technological change are explored with the objective of informing how the mitigation of their evolution could be addressed in educational settings. Key themes in the sustainability and higher education literature are then identified with the purpose of informing curricular and organisational intervention.


Countering unsustainable patterns of technological change requires the development of key sustainability competencies within more technical disciplines, informed by concepts in science and technology studies. This requires change at curricular, organisational and institutional levels to enable spaces for inter- and transdisciplinary learning to be created, so that skills may be developed.


This paper reflects on unsustainable patterns of technological change, identifying challenges for educators, in particular those in more technical disciplines.



This paper evolved from work done for a joint keynote speech at the 2021 Engineering Education for Sustainable Development conference in University College Cork with Professor John Barry (Queens University, Belfast). Many thanks are due to John for initial discussions and ideas. Particular acknowledgement is also due to Professor Edmond Byrne (University College Cork) for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Thanks are also due to Fiona Britton (Atlantic Technological University) and Dr. David Featherstone (University of Glasgow). Finally, the author is grateful to the anonymous reviewers and editors for the guidance that helped to shape this paper. Any remaining errors and shortcomings are entirely the author’s own.


Hume, T. (2023), "Higher education in turbulent times: navigating the transition from un-sustainability in a world dominated by technology", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 212-229.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles