Ethical Governance for Sustainable Development in Higher Education Institutions: Lessons From a Small-Scale University

Ethical Governance for Sustainable Development in Higher Education Institutions: Lessons From a Small-Scale University

Ana Costa Freitas (Universidade de Évora, Portugal), Paulo Quaresma (Universidade de Évora, Portugal), Ausenda de Cáceres Balbino (Universidade de Évora, Portugal), Rosalina Pisco Costa (Universidade de Évora, Portugal), Inês Secca Ruivo (Universidade de Évora, Portugal), Luís Rato (Universidade de Évora, Portugal) and José Godinho Calado (Universidade de Évora, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5837-8.ch010

Abstract

In contemporary societies, higher education institutions face the impact of globalization, which is mainly demanding in imposing and shaping ethical practices. While higher education systems and dynamics cannot be understood apart from this broader context, its primary focus seems to remain as equal as ever: the creation of knowledge-based societies and economies, education and the creation of socially responsible citizens. Against this background, this chapter aims to present and critically discuss the strategies implemented in a higher education institution towards building a culture of integrity. The empirical focus is a small-scale university located in southern Europe, peripheral to prominent universities and major countries.
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Introduction

Ethics might seem a very abstract and elusive concept yet when confronted with reality and specific issues it becomes more evident: ethics is “the challenge to do what ought to be done.” (European Commission, 2013, p. 10). Higher-education systems appear to be no exception (Couch & Dodd, 2005).

In contemporary societies, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) face the impact of globalization, which is particularly demanding in imposing and shaping ethical practices (Singh & Stückelberger, 2017). While higher-education systems and dynamics cannot be understood apart from this broader context, its main focus seems to remain as equal as ever: the creation of knowledge-based societies and economies, education and the creation of socially responsible citizens (Robinson & Moulton, 1985; Nair, 2014).

Ethics do matters in Higher Education (IBE/CIHE, 2005). All over the world, higher-education institutions are focusing more attention on their ethical responsibilities, what goes beyond its legal responsibilities (Sadlak & Ratajczak, 2006). Moral principles apply to the conduct of individuals and the organization as a whole. HEIs should create ethical learning environments, in which very different students, sometimes coming from diverse parts around the world, can learn the principles and traditions of particular professional practice, acquire and foster knowledge, and develop skills to help them become responsible citizens and ethical leaders (Couch & Dodd, 2005). However, moral responsibilities are much broader than this, as ethical issues are manifold and arise in a wide range of situations, including those relating to the teaching and learning process, research and development activities, but also linkages to the broader society.

In such a context, why tackle ethics? According to the report Ethics Matters: Managing Ethical Issues in Higher Education, prepared by the Institute of Business Ethics and the Council for Industry and Higher Education, in 2005, there is a range of reasons for HEIs to do so, namely: governance, upholding an organization’s mission and values, guidance for staff, guidance for students, risk and reputation, legislation, pressure from students and other interested parties, recruiting staff and attracting students, and encouraging funding, sponsorship and business involvement (IBE/CIHE, 2005, p. 10).

At this point, a distinction should be made between ethical challenges to both higher education and science and governance as such, and preventive measures and remedies. In this sense, a lot of literature is devoted to draft an ethical framework of governance in the area of higher education and science. While some works refer to the role of the codes of conduct in HEIs (Rezaee, Elmore, & Szendi, 2001), Kohler (2004) suggests remedial or preventive ethical frameworks of governance, namely the cultural integration of governance and ethics, and the management of ethics and risk prevention. Transversally, several associations and informal groups gain visibility in the field. For instance, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), established in 1997 by a small group of journal editors in the UK, now has over 12 000 members worldwide from all academic fields. Membership is open to editors of academic journals and others interested in publication ethics. COPE provides advice to editors and publishers on all aspects of publication ethics and, in particular, how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct. It also provides a forum for its members to discuss individual cases1.

Against this background, this chapter aims to present and critically discuss the strategies actually implemented in a higher-education institution towards building a culture of integrity. The empirical focus is a small-scale university2, located in Southern Europe, peripheral to prominent universities and major countries.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Governance: The framework of management’ rules, practices, and processes by which a specific institution ensures accountability, fairness, and transparency both inwards and outwards.

Ethical Leadership: The ability to drive the institution through principles of transparency, free flow of information, and good governance, thereby transmitting an image of security and confidence both indoors and outdoors, namely with regards the stakeholders with which it interacts.

Ethical Governance: The set of management rules, practices, and processes, specifically and explicitly driven by moral principles.

Information Security Challenges: The set of obstacles that occur ensuring the security of information, including ethical, technical, organizational, legal, and human aspects.

Ethics: Well-founded standards of what is “right” and “wrong,” expressed in terms of rights, obligations, and benefits to the institution and, ultimately, the society.

Academic Integrity: The full and shared moral code or ethical policy of the academia. It includes values such as avoidance of academic fraud, in the form of cheating or plagiarism, maintenance of the specific educational standard, honesty, and rigor in both research and publishing. These values usually are made visible in the way of internal institutional regulation.

Research Ethics: The ethics considerations, dilemmas and trade-offs that apply throughout the research process, from the very beginning, when having an idea and designing a project or study, through the fieldwork, analysis, dissemination, and reporting of the research findings.

Sustainable Development: It is perceived as the development in a holistic sense, not only from a multiple economic, social, educational or environmental perspective, that can meet human development goals in a balanced and fair way, and without compromising the future generations. It implies an action on all fronts: governments, businesses, civil society and people everywhere all have a role to play, as they are both the producers and the outcome of such processes and actions.

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