Higher Education Institutions as a Catalyst for Sustainability Development

Higher Education Institutions as a Catalyst for Sustainability Development

Shilpa H. Shetty
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-9859-0.ch001
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Growing concerns about the planet and society have led to the evolution of the concept of sustainable development. This concept gained popularity when the World Commission on Environment and Development released its report Our Common Future in 1987. In 1975, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) brought sustainability as the International Environmental Education Program focusing on environmental education. This gave birth to the idea that Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) can play a significant role in promoting the sustainability agenda. Over the years, this was done by implementing sustainability initiatives on the campus. These initiatives mostly focused on the environment and ignored the social and economic dimensions of sustainability. Given the paucity of adequate knowledge in this field, the chapter aims to explore the challenges in implementing sustainable initiatives and suggest a framework that will guide HEIs to act as a catalyst for sustainability development.
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The term sustainability was first used in 1972 in a British book, Blueprint for Survival. In the book, the industrial way of life was criticized as non-sustainable and a need for a sustainable society was stressed upon. Following this The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), found one of the first instances of the use of the word “sustainable” in the context of the environment. In 1974, the Woodlands conference report for the first time used the word sustainability. The subsequently held woodlands conferences led to books that were the first to use the word “sustainable” in their titles: Dennis Meadows- Alternatives to Growth I: A Search for Sustainable Futures (1977), James C. Coomer: Quest for a Sustainable Society (1979) and Harlan Cleveland: The Management of Sustainable Growth (1979). The term sustainability also appeared in the 1976 fisheries act, The Magnuson Act, 1976. In defining optimum yield, the act stated, “the amount of fish which is prescribed as such on the basis of the maximum sustainable yield from such fishery”. Further, in 1977, Professor Ignacy Sachs of the Centre International de Recherche sur invented the term “ecodevelopment” and defined it as “an approach to development aimed at: harmonizing social and economic objectives with ecologically sound management, in a spirit of solidarity with future generations.” However, he did not use the word “sustainability.” But the contribution of Sachs is significant because it provided the basic rationale for the 1978 UNEP document that marked the first use of the term sustainability in a U.N. document.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Programme: Students pursuing higher education, register for programme, successfully complete the corresponding curriculum and are awarded appropriate degree for example Bachelor of Engineering or Master of Science, etc.

Declaration: A formal announcement made by an individual or group. In this context, declaration refers to the formal announcement made by an HEI or group of HEI’s clearly stating their actions to create a sustainable future.

Framework: A structure for application. In this context, the chapter provides a structure that exhibits the key components that can be adopted by HEIs in promoting sustainable development.

Course: A subject that is taught to the students in HEI during an academic term say semester. Multiple modules on related areas are brought together to make a course.

Pedagogy: Method of teaching.

Research: Investigation undertaken by faculty and students in their respective field of knowledge to solve an ongoing problem.

Catalyst: An action or event or factor that brings about a change. In this context, Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) is the factor that is referred to which can bring about a change in the production and consumption habits of the humans.

Curriculum: A structured plan that clearly describes the concepts and skills that the students will learn, the teaching materials and pedagogy that the teacher will use and the assessments that will be applied to measure the learning.

Operation: It refers to the day-to-day activities in HEIs which includes managing water, food, electricity, and other maintenance activities in the campus.

Extension: Activities beyond curriculum designed to give back to the community and bring about a difference in the life of others along with developing empathy, compassion, communication, leadership, teamwork, and other valuable qualities among students.

Module: An academic course in an HEI is built on many related modules. In a course, modules are arranged in a way to create a flow of content.

HEI: Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are educational institutions that provide education beyond secondary education i.e., high school. It includes Universities, colleges, Technical and vocational institutions. These institutions offer undergraduate degrees, post-graduation degrees, doctoral degrees, and professional degrees.

Sustainability Development: Promoting all those ways and means to live on earth without compromising with the quality of environment and life of people living in the society.

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