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The role of higher education institutes in meeting national and international environmental targets

Shawe, Rachel, Horan, William, Moles, Richard, O’Regan, Bernadette
Environmental science & policy 2019
case studies, educational institutions, energy, higher education, interviews, issues and policy, managers, outreach, sustainable development, Ireland
Higher Education Institutes are being called upon to integrate sustainable development into their organisation, driven by national and international events, policies and environmental targets. This paper explores the role of Higher Education Institutes in helping to meet these targets through the integration of sustainability on-campus, in testing new ideas and technologies, and the amplification of lessons learned within society and economy. It provides a comparison of Irish Higher Education Institutes with international examples. Sixteen case studies were selected; seven from Ireland and nine international. A literature review was conducted with a focus on papers that dealt explicitly with sustainability education and outreach. Three site visits of Higher Education Institution campuses took place, as did interviews with energy and transport managers and academics of each institute. The results show the integration of sustainable development into Higher Education Institutes follows no standard approach, with the number of initiatives for sustainability outweighing the number of strategies and policies, presenting a general bottom-up process. Overall, Higher Education Institutes lack a systemic approach. The majority of initiatives focus on on-campus actions, with outreach neglected. Higher Education Institutes represent significant resources in implementing sustainable development. To maximise their potential a mixture of top-down and bottom-up processes are necessary, with management support essential if sustainable development is to survive in the long-term, and for lessons learned to be successfully amplified to wider society and economy and assist in meeting national and international environmental targets.