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Sustainable Development in Universities: the power and role of visions and goals
Gotland University, School of the Humanities and Social Science.
Karlstad University.
2011 (English)In: Proceedings : QMOD Conference on Qualityand Service Sciences 2011: From LearnAbility & InnovAbility to SustainAbility / [ed] Carmen Jaca, Ricardo Mateo, Elizabeth Viles, Javier Santos, Pamplona: Servicios de Publicaciones Universidad de Navarra , 2011, 902-914 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]


Universities in Sweden are since 2006 based on a government decree instructed to work with sustainable development. Recent studies on progress for Sustainable Development indicate that change is relatively slow and that most of the activities could be labelled: Business as usual. One apparent challenge is to understand what Sustainable Development means and consequently what needs to be changed compared to current performance. Visions and long range goals are important in any change work and should consequently also be important in the work for sustainable universities. Interesting questions are how visions and long range goals are defined in universities and to what extent they support work for Sustainable Development.


The general purpose of the study is to see how universities could work for Sustainable Development and to find out areas of further improvement. The specific research questions in this study are:

How could university work with sustainable development be characterized in education and research?

How are visions and goals for Sustainable Development described by universities?

How could visions and goals be improved in order to better support change towards Sustainable Development?


Swedish universities are chosen for the study. The reason for this is that Swedish law since 2006 explicitly requires universities to work with Sustainable Development. This means that we can choose a random sample from the total Swedish university population and look at the interpretation of work for Sustainable Development. We use common definitions for Sustainable Development and compare them with university missions and directives from the Swedish state to answer the question how university work for Sustainable Development could be characterised. We identify typical definitions for what is required for a vision and for goals. These definitions are compared with the university interpretations as per web-sites and from individual views.

Main results

A review of how Sustainable Development is presented in the Swedish University world.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Pamplona: Servicios de Publicaciones Universidad de Navarra , 2011. 902-914 p.
Keyword [en]
Sustainable Development; Vision, Goals, University sustainability
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Quality Technology and Management
URN: urn:nbn:se:hgo:diva-1295ISBN: 84‐8081‐211‐7OAI: diva2:475324
14th QMOD Conference 29st – 31st August, 2011, San Sebastian, Spain
Available from: 2012-01-12 Created: 2012-01-10 Last updated: 2013-07-01Bibliographically approved

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