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Higher education for sustainable development: actioning the global goals in policy, curriculum and practice

Abstract

Higher education for sustainable development (HEfSD) is being significantly shaped by the global sustainability agenda. Many higher education institutions, responsible for equipping the next generation of sustainability leaders with knowledge and essential skills, proactively try to action the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in HEfSD policy, curriculum and practice through scattered and isolated initiatives. Yet, these attempts are not strategically supported by a governing approach to HEfSD or coordinated effectively to tackle social and environmental sustainability. These predicaments not only widen the gap between HEfSD policy, curriculum and practice but also exacerbate the complexities between human and environmental interactions compromising overall sustainability. However, these efforts represent a potential for actioning the Global Agenda for Sustainable Development. Based on a qualitative research strategy, theory building methodology and various methodological techniques (surveys, policy and literature review, group and individual interviews), this research suggests that the advancement of HEfSD in policy, curriculum and practice depends largely on a better understanding of existing gaps, target areas, commonalities and differences across regional HEfSD agendas. This will hopefully provide higher education institutions and their stakeholders across regions with some conceptual and practical tools to consider strategically how HEfSD can successfully be integrated into policy, curriculum and practice in alignment with SDGs and with the overall mandate of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) (Grant No. JP17777). One of the authors would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for substantive comments in the development of this manuscript.

Author information

Correspondence to I. Franco.

Additional information

Handled by Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic, University for Development Studies, Ghana.

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Franco, I., Saito, O., Vaughter, P. et al. Higher education for sustainable development: actioning the global goals in policy, curriculum and practice. Sustain Sci 14, 1621–1642 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-018-0628-4

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Keywords

  • Higher education for sustainable development
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable development goals (SDGs)
  • Policy
  • Curriculum
  • Stakeholders