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Teaching sustainable development through entrepreneurial experiences

Håkan Burden ( RISE Research Institutes of Sweden , Gothenburg, Sweden and Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Gothenburg , Gothenburg, Sweden)
Frances Sprei (Department of Space, Earth and Environment, Physical Resource Theory, Chalmers University of Technology , Gothenburg, Sweden)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 2 September 2020

Issue publication date: 8 January 2021




The purpose of this study is to address the challenges of teaching sustainable development to computer engineering students. Part of the problem is that they perceive the topic as irrelevant for their future profession.


To address this challenge, we introduced a project element into a course on sustainable development where the students developed applications for sustainable mobility together with the local public transport authority, an academic institution and a multinational telecom company.


The findings conclude that the course changes improved the overall student satisfaction while succeeding in anchoring sustainable development in a context which the students can relate to. The collaboration was also perceived as fruitful by the external stakeholders who encouraged the students to stay in touch for their bachelor theses and internships.

Research limitations/implications

The theoretical implication is a first attempt in integrating sustainable development education with entrepreneurial experiences, whereas the practical implication is a description of how the integration can be realized.

Practical implications

The contribution is therefore of value for both educational researchers to open novel research opportunities and for teachers to describe new possibilities for sustainable development education.


The contribution describes how entrepreneurial experiences can be used to motivate engineering students in mandatory courses on sustainable development and ethics. The approach is novel in that the approach has not been described earlier in this context.



The authors would like to thank the involved organizations for their time and effort, and the representatives for their commitment and enthusiasm. The recognition from the program manager in terms of resources for redefining the course organization was also instrumental in carrying out the transition. The authors are also indebted to the Chalmers effort on ensuring that a majority of the students are exposed to entrepreneurial experiences since it was through this initiative the EntreComp framework was introduced.


Burden, H. and Sprei, F. (2021), "Teaching sustainable development through entrepreneurial experiences", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 142-156.



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