Integrating Sustainability in University Curricula: Investigating Students’ Perceptions, Motivations and Interests

Irene Malta**, Steph Zawadzki*, Marijke Nieborg, John Hoeks, João Graça, Berfu Ünal

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk


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There is an increasing interest in integrating sustainability into higher education. Teaching these complex and interrelated issues can lead students to explore topics outside the boundaries of single disciplines and prepare future professionals with the skills necessary to address global challenges. However, sustainability is a multifaceted issue, leading to debates among scholars on its definition and among lecturers on which key topics to address.

We investigated students’ perspectives on sustainability by conducting a survey among bachelor students (N=773) at a Dutch university. We explored how students view sustainability, which key topics they are interested in learning about, what their reasons are for wanting to learn about sustainability, and what barriers they face. In order to capture the multifaceted concept of sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were used as a guiding framework.

We found that students associated the concept of sustainability mainly with environmental issues, and that they think of both environmental challenges and solutions. 96% indicated interest in learning about at least one SDG, the most common being Climate Action, Quality Education, and Peace, Justice, & Strong Institutions. Students were most likely to report having moral reasons as motivators for studying sustainability (e.g., feeling a social responsibility to help). In-line with previous studies, the most commonly reported barriers were either addressable institutional barriers (e.g., lack of priority in their department) or personal barriers (e.g., time constraints). Our findings provide insights into students’ perspectives on sustainability, which may be important when integrating sustainability into education and curricula.

*Shared first authorship
Originele taal-2English
StatusPublished - 21-jun.-2023
EvenementInternational Conference on Environmental Psychology Aarhus - Aarhus, Denmark
Duur: 20-jun.-202323-jun.-2023


ConferenceInternational Conference on Environmental Psychology Aarhus
Verkorte titelICEP 2023

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