The impacts of higher education institutions on sustainable development: A review and conceptualization

Florian Findler, Norma Schönherr, Rodrigo Lozano, Daniela Reider, Robert-Andre Martinuzzi

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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This paper aims to conceptualize impacts of higher education institutions (HEIs) on sustainable development (SD), complementing previous literature reviews by broadening the perspective from what HEIs do in pursuit of SD to how these activities impact society, the environment and the economy.
The paper provides a systematic literature review of peer-reviewed journal articles published between 2005 and 2017. Inductive content analysis was applied to identify major themes and impact areas addressed in the literature to develop a conceptual framework detailing the relationship between HEIs’ activities and their impacts on SD. The paper identifies six impact areas where direct and indirect impacts of HEIs on SD may occur. The findings indicate a strong focus on case studies dealing with specific projects and a lack of studies analyzing impacts from a more holistic perspective.This systematic literature review enables decision-makers in HEIs, researchers and educators to better understand how their activities may affect society, the environment and the economy, and it provides a solid foundation to tackle these impacts.The review highlights that HEIs have an inherent responsibility to make societies more sustainable. HEIs must embed SD into their systems while considering their impacts on society.
This paper provides a holistic conceptualization of HEIs’ impacts on SD. The conceptual framework can be useful for future research that attempts to analyze HEIs’ impacts on SD from a holistic perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23 - 38
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 201128 Sustainable building
  • 509

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