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Transactional learning and sustainability co-creation in a university – business collaboration

Katriina Soini (Bioeconomy and Environment, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Helsinki, Finland)
Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki (Institute of Sustainability Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland)
Henna Asikainen (Centre for University Teaching and Learning, HYPE, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 31 July 2019

Issue publication date: 4 October 2019




The purpose of this study is to explore the learning outcomes of the project-based learning in a Master Class programme on sustainability carried out in collaboration by the University of Helsinki and a private company operating in global mining technology. The following two questions were addressed: Q1. What kind of sustainability competences do participants acquire in the Master Class? Q2. What is the role of PBL in the learning outcomes?


The study is based on an ex ante open-ended survey and post-ante interviews addressed to the participants. The data were analysed using the qualitative content analysis.


The findings show that the Master Class contributed to most of the competences under study. However, unlike in previous studies, systemic thinking is highlighted as a fundamental rather than a parallel core competence. Furthermore, the results also emphasise the role of emotions, which is insufficiently acknowledged and accounted for in sustainability education.

Research limitations/implications

The study focussed only on the learning outcomes of the participants (students) and not the other parties (such as company and researchers).

Practical implications

Future research should focus on affective dimension as a stepping stone to the transformational learning. In addition, the role of the systemic understanding in sustainability education should be highlighted as a core competence.

Social implications

The study revealed the overall positive impacts of the co-creation in university – business collaboration to the participants’ sustainability competences.


The study presents an empirical case study where the various competence frameworks were applied with a result of confirming the validity of the existing key competences, in particular the systemic understanding and showing the role of the affective dimension in the transactional learning.



Soini, K., Korhonen-Kurki, K. and Asikainen, H. (2019), "Transactional learning and sustainability co-creation in a university – business collaboration", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 965-984.



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