An international comparative analysis of sustainability transformation across seven universities

D. Ferrer-Balas, J. Adachi, S. Banas, C. I. Davidson, A. Hoshikoshi, A. Mishra, Y. Motodoa, M. Onga, M. Ostwald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

250 Scopus citations


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to identify the key aspects of transformation of universities towards sustainability, such as the ideal characteristics of the "sustainable university", and the drivers and barriers in the transformation, by comparing the strategies of seven universities world-wide. Design/methodology/approach - A systems transformation analysis of seven case studies has been applied through a self-evaluation based on the tridimensional Framework-Level-Actors (FLA) method. Findings - The study shows that none of the three dimensions of change is predominant over the others. The main barrier to be overcome is the lack of incentive structure for promoting changes at the individual level. The main drivers for change are the presence of "connectors" with society, the existence of coordination bodies and projects, and the availability of funding, all of which are important for progress. Enhancing interdisciplinarity is a strategic objective at almost all of these universities, while transformative learning is less present. A common characteristic for most of the institutions is establishing and supporting networks of expertise within the universities. These universities show important strategic efforts and initiatives that drive and nucleate change for sustainable development, the result of a combination of drivers. Practical implications - The FLA-method has proved useful for being used at the level of comparing case-studies through a bird's-eye perspective. Originality/value - The paper demonstrates the application of a simple tool that gives a global perspective on transformational strategies used in seven cases world-wide in the search for commonalities and differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-316
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Discipline
  • Higher education
  • Sustainable development
  • Systems theory
  • Transformational leadership

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Education


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