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The role of sustainable development in the academic curriculum and prospective employment: a survey of information technology students in Bulgaria

Denitza Anguelova Charkova (Department of Methodology of Teaching, Mathematics, Informatics, and Information Technology, Plovdiv University Paisii Hilendarski, Plovdiv, Bulgaria)
Elena Somova (Department of Computer Science, Plovdiv University Paisii Hilendarski, Plovdiv, Bulgaria)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 5 May 2023

Issue publication date: 13 November 2023

185

Abstract

Purpose

The information technology (IT) sector is a powerful factor in present-day society, and its role in pro-sustainability policies is crucial. This study aims to gain insight into IT students' perspectives on the role of education for sustainable development (ESD) in their academic curriculum as well as to project their attitudes and actions to prospective employers.

Design/methodology/approach

This study used a cross-sectional survey design, involving 260 students majoring in IT at a public university in Bulgaria.

Findings

The majority of the students (67.30%) believed that their university education should promote students’ social and environmental skills. However, 55–65% thought that the current academic curriculum failed to connect subject matter with relevant environmental issues. The students held high expectations of prospective employers. There was a significant concordance between the participants' views on sustainability and their perceived workplace actions. The participants who believed that employers should reduce carbon emissions were significantly more likely to refuse to do any work that supports the fossil fuel industry [odds ratio (OR) = 4.82, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.04–11.37] or leave a job if the company provides products or services for the fossil fuel industry (OR = 3.10, 95% CI: 1.26–7.26). Such participants were more likely to opt for a lower salary in favor of environmental principles (OR = 2.38, 95% CI: 1.32–4.28).

Social implications

The IT sector is a powerful factor in present-day society, and its role in pro-sustainability policies is crucial. IT students’ perspectives on the gaps in current sustainability practices convey a message to the IT academic and employment communities that environmental issues matter and are important to this new generation of technologically savvy people.

Originality/value

There have been a few other studies in Bulgaria on the issue of ESD, but no other study has focused on the projection of students' attitudes toward the environment onto future employers. The study's results showed that the Bulgarian young people who were getting ready for jobs in the IT field had the same environmental values and concerns as their peers from different higher education areas in different parts of the world. They were interested in acquiring knowledge and competencies that would help propel pro-environmental actions in their academic institution and future workplace. Notwithstanding the overall low economic standards in their country, they tended to put carbon-free and environmentally friendly policies ahead of financial interests. Their critical perspectives on the gaps in current sustainability practices convey a message to the academic and job communities in IT that environmental issues matter to this new generation of technologically savvy people.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Erasmus+ Key Action 2 program (strategic partnership for higher education) and project No. 2020–1-PTO1-KA203-078646 “SusTrainable” – “Promoting sustainability as a fundamental driver in software development training and education” – for the inspiration to pursue academic and research agendas in this area. The information and the views expressed in this paper are those of the authors.

The authors are very grateful to the three anonymous reviewers and the deputy editor, whose insightful and constructive comments, questions and suggestions helped improve the article's quality and presentation.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests: The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Funding: The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Citation

Charkova, D.A. and Somova, E. (2023), "The role of sustainable development in the academic curriculum and prospective employment: a survey of information technology students in Bulgaria", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 24 No. 7, pp. 1629-1647. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-09-2022-0309

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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