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Sustainable Development Goals and sustainability teaching at universities: Falling behind or getting ahead of the pack?

Leal Filho, Walter and Shiel, Chris and Paço, Arminda and Mifsud, Mark and Ávila, Lucas Veiga and Brandli, Luciana Londero and Molthan-Hill, Petra and Pace, Paul and Azeiteiro, Ulisses M and Vargas, Valeria Ruiz and Caeiro, Sandra (2019) Sustainable Development Goals and sustainability teaching at universities: Falling behind or getting ahead of the pack? Journal of Cleaner Production, 232. pp. 285-294. ISSN 0959-6526

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Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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Abstract

The fact that the world community is engaged in pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) means that an unrivalled opportunity is provided to universities, both in respect of teaching and in research, on individual SDGs, as well as in pursuing their “third mission” linking up with external stakeholders and society. However, not many universities have realised that and many are falling behind. This paper explores the many advantages of the introduction of the SDGs into teaching and suggests that it can catalyse the engagement of students in Higher Education Institutions (HEI) with the concepts of sustainability. The paper fills in a research gap by surveying the current state of the art regarding the theme, presenting current data outlining the extent to which HEI are using SDGs to support their sustainability work. The reasons why some institutions are currently not engaging is also shown. The paper, which consists of a worldwide survey deployed to collect data on the SDGs and sustainability teaching at universities, concludes by providing some recommendations aimed at encouraging further engagement of HEI in incorporatingSDGs as part of their teaching programs. This research is unique in the sense that it provides for the first time offers an overview of the level of emphasis selected universities currently place on the SDGs. Finally, it provides a contribution to current state of knowledge by outlining some actions universities may take, to move forward with their implementation.

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