Comparative Analysis of Sustainable Practices/Innovations Between University of Pretoria, Gauteng and University of Venda, Limpopo

  • Emma Eudine Mukwevho
  • Mucha TogoEmail author
Part of the World Sustainability Series book series (WSUSE)


Universities have become crucial in dealing with environmental challenges facing the world. Their role is fundamental in addressing environmental issues firstly due to the impact that the institutions have on the environment and secondly due to their massive potential as custodians of education, research and community development. Their role in sustainable development has been reiterated through various global agendas with one of the latest being the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The role of education is mentioned in several SDGs especially SDG 4. This study was undertaken to unpack and understand the contribution of universities to Sustainable Development based on two South African universities with different histories and socio-economic contexts. The research was undertaken at the University of Venda, a former black university situated in the poor Limpopo province of South Africa and at the University of Pretoria, a former white institution located in Pretoria, the country’s administrative capital city in the Gauteng Province. The study focused on sustainable development initiatives employed in university operations, research and community engagement only. The scope of the research (especially time limitations) did not allow inclusion of initiatives in other university functions. Qualitative data collection methods were employed, such as interviews and site observations. Analysis of the data was basically through a comparative analysis of implemented initiatives based on quantity, stage of implementation, the focus and types of initiatives, and the scale of implementation. Critical realist structure/agency stratification of reality was employed as an analytic frame for further interpretation of the results to establish how these two strata influenced the sustainability initiatives at the two institutions. A number of practices were identified at each of the institutions. The practices however differed in terms of focus and the scale of implementation. The University of Pretoria has numerous partnerships in research which has led to fundamental developments in tackling environmental issues both in its context and other contexts. The University of Pretoria has also committed resources to making its operations more sustainable which can be seen in its water and energy management practices which are aimed at conservation. The University of Venda is restricted in its research outputs but has focused on addressing issues that affect its local community. Sustainable initiatives at The University of Venda are aimed more at resolving its lack of resources, developing ways to attain resources in a sustainable manner. The influence of structure was quite clear especially in terms of the scale of implementation and allocation of resources. The capacity of agents is then limited by what is possible or is given priority at the level of the structure.


Sustainability in higher education Environmental management Campus greening Sustainability practices Critical realism 


  1. Abubakar IR, Al-Shihri FS, Ahmed SM (2016) Students’ assessment of campus sustainability at the University of Dammam, Saudi. J Sustain 8(59):1–14. Scholar
  2. Adams J, King C, Hook D (2010) Global research report: Africa. Thompson Reuters, LeedsGoogle Scholar
  3. African Union (2015) Agenda 2063. Available online: Accessed 01 Mar 2019
  4. Allan J (2005) Apartheid South Africa: an insiders overview of the origin and effects of separate development. Universe, United StatesGoogle Scholar
  5. Alshuwaikhat HM, Abubakar I (2008) An integrated approach to achieving campus sustainability: assessment of the current campus environmental management practices. J Clean Prod 16:1777–1785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Anderberg E, Plotkin S, Norden B, Hasson B (2009) Global learning for sustainable development in higher education: recent trends and a critique. Int J Sustain High Educ 10(4):368–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Archer MS (1995) Realist social theory: the morphogenetic approach. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Archer MS (2003) Structure, agency and the internal conversation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Archer M, Sharp R, Stones R, Woodiwiss T (1999) Critical realism and research methodology. J Crit Realism 2(1):12–16Google Scholar
  10. Benton T, Craib I (2001) Philosophy of social science: the philosophical foundations of social thought. Palgrave, HampshireGoogle Scholar
  11. Bhaskar R (1978) A realist theory of science. The Harvester Press, SussexGoogle Scholar
  12. Brinkhurst M, Rose P, Maurice G, Ackerman JD (2011) Achieving campus sustainability: top-down, bottom-up, or neither? Int J Sustain High Educ 12(4):338–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Callewaert J, Marans RW (2017) Measuring progress over time: the sustainability cultural indicators program at the university of Michigan. In Leal Filho W et al (eds), Handbook of theory and practice of sustainable development in higher education, world sustainability series. pp 173–187. Springer International PublishingGoogle Scholar
  14. China Green University Network (2014) Introduction to China Green University Network. Available online: Accessed 5 Oct 2017
  15. DEA (2011) National climate change response white paper. DEA, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  16. Dhlamini L (2017) Integrating agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into regional and national development plans and strategy. UNDP. Accessed 27 Feb 2019
  17. Ferrer-Balas D, Adachi J, Banas S, Davidson CI, Hoshikoshi A, Mishra A, Motodoa Y, Onga M, Ostwald M (2008) An international comparative analysis of sustainability transformation across seven universities. Int J Sustain High Educ 9(3):295–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gillham B (2000) Case study research methods. Continuum, LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. Kros C (2010) The seeds of separate development: origins of Bantu education. Unisa Press, South Africa, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  20. Leedy PD, Ormrod L (2015) Practical research: planning and design, 11th edn. Pearson Education Limited, Essex, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  21. Lotz-Sisitka H (2012) The event of modern sustainable development and African universities. GUNi. Available online: Accessed 14 Oct 2018
  22. Lotz-Sisitka H, Hlengwa A, Ward M, Salami A, Ogbuigwe A, Pradhan M, Neeser M, Laurika S (2015) Mainstreaming environment and sustainability in African universities: stories of change. Rhodes University Environmental Learning Research Centre, GrahamstownGoogle Scholar
  23. Maponya P, Mpandeli S (2016) Drought and food scarcity in Limpopo Province, South Africa. In: 2nd world irrigation forum, 6–8 November 2016, Chiang Mai, Thailand, pp 1–8Google Scholar
  24. Niu D, Jiang D, Li F (2010) Higher education for sustainable development in China. Int J Sustain High Educ 11:153–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nyerere J, Mfune O, Fuh D, Sulemana N, Mutisya E, Yiran G, Fadairo O, Ameyaw J, Odingo A (2013) The role of higher education in building a sustainable African society. Afr J Sustain Dev 4(3):17–37Google Scholar
  26. Ralph M, Stubbs W (2014) Integrating environmental sustainability into universities. High Educ 2:2–14. Scholar
  27. Ryan A, Tilbury D, Corcoran PB, Abe O, Nomura K (2010) Sustainability in higher education in the Asia-Pacific: development, challenges and prospects. Int Sustain High Educ 11(2):106–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. SADC REEP (2011) Education for sustainable development and educational quality and relevance. 2nd year research report. Unpublished research report. SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme, South Africa, HowickGoogle Scholar
  29. Sayer RA (2000) Realism and social science. Sage, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Stern N (2006) Stern review on the economics of climate change. Available online:, Accessed 29 Mar 2017
  31. Ueckermann I (2016) Water management plan: department of facilities management campus services. University of Pretoria, South Africa, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  32. UNESCO (1993) The Swansea declaration. UNESCO. Swansea, Wales. Available online: Accessed 17 Oct 2018
  33. UNESCO (1990a) The Talloires declaration. UNESCO. Talloires, France. Available online: Accessed 17 Oct 2018
  34. UNESCO (1990b) Kyoto declaration. Ninth international association of universities round table. Available online: Accessed 01 Mar 2019
  35. UNESCO (2019) Global action programme on education for sustainable development. Available online: Accessed 01 Mar 2019
  36. Velazquez L, Munguia N, Platt A, Taddei J (2006) Sustainable university: what can be the matter? J Clean Prod 14:810–819CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Weik E (2006) Working relationships: a meta-view on structure and agency. Available online: Accessed 20 Nov 2018
  38. Wright T, Elliot H (2011) Canada and US regional report. In: Higher education in world 4, higher education’s commitment to sustainability: from understanding to action. GUNi, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of South AfricaFloridaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations