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Participation of students in the project Valorbio: A case study to accelerate the implementation of sustainability principles in the curriculum

Dina M.R. Mateus (Instituto Politécnico de Tomar, Escola Superior de Tecnologia de Tomar, Tomar, Portugal, and Technology, Restoration and Arts Enhancement Center (Techn&Art), Tomar, Portugal)
Henrique J.O. Pinho (Instituto Politécnico de Tomar Escola Superior de Tecnologia de Tomar, Tomar, Portugal and Smart Cities Research Center (Ci2), Tomar, Portugal)
Isabel M.D.P. Nogueira (Instituto Politécnico de Tomar Escola Superior de Tecnologia de Tomar, Tomar, Portugal and Smart Cities Research Center (Ci2), Tomar, Portugal)
Manuel A.N.H. Rosa (Instituto Politécnico de Tomar Escola Superior de Tecnologia de Tomar, Tomar, Portugal and Technology, Restoration and Arts Enhancement Center (Techn&Art), Tomar, Portugal)
Marco A.M. Cartaxo (Instituto Politécnico de Tomar Escola Superior de Tecnologia de Tomar, Tomar, Portugal and Smart Cities Research Center (Ci2), Tomar, Portugal)
Valentim M.B. Nunes (Instituto Politécnico de Tomar Escola Superior de Tecnologia de Tomar, Tomar, Portugal and Smart Cities Research Center (Ci2), Tomar, Portugal)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 3 February 2020

Issue publication date: 11 March 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe the case of the Valorbio research project, in which students of different high-level programs were involved in the experimental work and in the dissemination of results in collaboration with the research team.

Design/methodology/approach

The inclusion in higher education curricula of content related to the sustainable development should be a preferred mechanism for the dissemination of good practices of sustainability. Another equally important way to achieve this is to involve students in research projects that seek solutions to the societal challenges related to sustainable growth. The Valorbio project aims to meet the needs for treating and reusing wastewater and solid waste. Its main goal was the development of modular systems for wastewater treatment based on constructed wetlands, exploring the possibility of the treatment systems being composed of solid waste and by-products from significant industrial sectors.

Findings

The students’ contribution to the research work was relevant and simultaneously allowed them to acquire skills on sustainable development. Additionally, the students contributed to the dissemination of the results. The Valorbio project can thus be considered a successful application of the concept of project-based learning (PBL), as a way to include sustainability issues content in the higher education curricula.

Originality/value

The applied experimental work had an original approach regarding the equipment design, the waste materials valuation, as well as the integration of waste treatment processes in the circular economy paradigm. This paper is the first reported PBL experience involving students of short-cycle technical–professional programs in partnership with first and second-level students and a research team.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The Valorbio project was partially supported by COMPETE2020 under the grant POCI-01-0145-FEDER-23314 and by the consortia partners: Instituto Politécnico de Tomar, Instituto Politécnico de Coimbra, Instituto Politécnico de Portalegre and the company PALSER – Bionergia e Paletes, Lda.

The authors acknowledge the collaboration of the students of the TeSP in Environmental Quality, bachelor program in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and master program in Chemical Technology, held at Instituto Politécnico de Tomar. Special thanks to the students André Farinha, Ana Batista, Carolina Masseno, Carolina Parra, Joel Nunes and Luís Santos.

The authors also acknowledge the Lab.IPT support, particularly Alcino Serras, Carlos Ferreira, Isabel Silva and Vitor Gaspar and the research fellows Ana Alves and Nuno Graça.

Citation

Mateus, D.M.R., Pinho, H.J.O., Nogueira, I.M.D.P., Rosa, M.A.N.H., Cartaxo, M.A.M. and Nunes, V.M.B. (2020), "Participation of students in the project Valorbio: A case study to accelerate the implementation of sustainability principles in the curriculum", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 244-263. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-09-2019-0254

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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