The Role of Universities in Promoting Sustainability

Remigijus Čiegis, Dalia Gineitienė


The article deals with some theoretical aspects of the sustainable development of economy, sustainable university, and the biggest attention is given to educational issues. A comparison of the concepts of education for sustainable development (ESD) and the environmental education (EE) is presented. Using theoretical approach the role of universities in the process of promoting sustainability as well as problems related to its implementation are discussed. Environmentally responsible citizens accept responsibility for what happens in their community – not only environmentally but also politically, and socioeconomically. Thus, a primary educational mission should be to teach citizens to be able to influence public decisions where environmental issues are very important. ESD differs from previous approaches to environmental education as it focuses on developing links between environmental quality, ecology and socioeconomics and the political trends. The nature of ESD requires to give people knowledge and skills for lifelong learning and to help people to find new solutions to the environmental, economic, and social issues. One of the most important roles of institutions of higher education is ESD and especially teaching and research necessary to generate the new knowledge on sustainable development and training the leaders and teachers of tomorrow, as well as communicating this knowledge to decision-makers and the public-at-large. It is clear that graduates of any discipline need knowledge about sustainability. Sustainability issues should be integrated within the main functions of a university: education and research processes, different operational activities of the university and its community as well as the relations of the university with the external community. All institution of higher education, including students, teachers, researchers, administration and other staff, has to follow sustainable development principles. Universities make a large economic entity consuming a big amount of resources, purchasing products and services. Thus, they must make sustainability an integral part of the institution’s daily operations (consumption, waste management, use of water, energy, and paper) and also attempt to reduce their ecological footprint. These efforts should be tied to the formal curriculum. Research must help to introduce sustainable development principles in all areas of university activities in order to assure reasonable use of the resources, education content and process based on sustainable development values. Institutions of higher education face certain challenges when introducing principles of sustainable development. Not all educators and leaders are familiar with the sustainable development approach and thus cannot incorporate it into the university operation. It is clear that applying principles of sustainable development universities could not only work more effectively but also promote sustainability ideas in the community.


economics; economy; sustainable development; sustainable university; environmental education; education for sustainable development.

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Print ISSN: 1392-2785
Online ISSN: 2029-5839