Sustainability and academic air travel in Australian universities

Andrew Glover (Digital Ethnography Research Centre, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Yolande Strengers (School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Tania Lewis (Digital Ethnography Research Centre, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 8 May 2018

Abstract

Purpose

Air travel is becoming increasingly recognized as a source of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. This is particularly relevant for the university sector, which relies heavily on staff air travel for domestic and international mobility.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a qualitative content and textual analysis of Australian university sustainability policies, documents and Web pages, this paper discusses the extent to which these organizations take the task of reducing emissions from flying seriously.

Findings

Universities fall into one of three groups in this regard. “Air Travel Ignorers” are organizations that either have no sustainability policy or none that recognize air travel as a source of greenhouse gas emissions. The second group – “Recognition without Intervention” – describes universities that do acknowledge the role of air travel in their carbon footprint, but do not propose any means to reduce the amount of flying they do. Third, “Air Travel Substituters” seek to substitute their air travel with a digital form of mobility, usually video conferencing.

Research limitations/implications

The authors then highlight the need to decrease and denormalize university air travel through shifting shared expectations of mobility for events such as conferences and meetings.

Practical implications

By way of a conclusion, the authors discuss the nature of air travel for Australian academia and the relationship between various forms of mobility, connectedness and co-presence.

Originality/value

This is the first comprehensive analysis of Australian university sustainability policies with respect to air travel.

Keywords

Citation

Andrew Glover, Yolande Strengers and Tania Lewis (2018) "Sustainability and academic air travel in Australian universities", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 756-772

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DOI

: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-08-2017-0129

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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