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Safety management module to create social sustainability skills

Hans Liwång (Department of Aeronautical and Vehicle Engineering, School of Engineering Sciences, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden and Department of Military Studies, Swedish Defence University , Stockholm, Sweden)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 5 May 2020

Issue publication date: 8 June 2020




This study has a scope limited to a specific course and changes integrated to the core of the KTH naval architecture master program. The students in the program have earlier experience from engineering applications in a general sustainability perspective and understand the basic concepts within sustainability. Therefore, to introduce further steps a new course module was introduced in 2018 focusing on safety management and social sustainability. The purpose of this study is to identify and document the pedagogic lessons for a course module where sustainable development (SD) is discipline-specific.


This study is a case study that qualitatively investigates the stainability effects of the implementation of the new course module. The course and program activities are compared to the results of a previous study in 2017 on the sustainable development learning elements (SDLEs) in the program and discussed in relation to more general SD initiatives.


From the analysis, it is identified that the perspectives presented were new to a substantial part of the students. This study also shows that the effects of the specific module here studied, with a focus on the skill of maritime social sustainability development, differ from more general sustainability literacy. The new perspective affected the thinking about the core of the students’ studies, ship design, in a way that general knowledge on sustainability has not. This was achieved with a combination of suitable tools and perspectives in combination with contextual knowledge and a frame of reference. The contextual knowledge and a frame of reference are here present in education as a result of relating the sustainability case to the core of the program.


The result relates the pedagogical change described to SDLEs and to the ambition of conceive, design, implement and operate approaches. This paper contributes to the literature by providing a discussion on how social sustainability can be implemented in engineering education and the role of integrated discipline-specific sustainability modules.



This study would not have been possible without the colleagues at KTH center for naval architecture, especially Anders Rosén, who creates an environment where pedagogic approaches and sustainability ambitions are challenged and developed. The development of socio-technical understanding within the Systems Science for Defence and Security at the Swedish Defence University has also been important in creating the approaches discussed.


Liwång, H. (2020), "Safety management module to create social sustainability skills", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 717-732.



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