Students’ learning sustainability – implicit, explicit or non-existent: a case study approach on students’ key competencies addressing the SDGs in HEI program

Karin Alm, Thomas Beery, David Eiblemeir, Tarek Fahmy

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Purpose – This study aims to understand better the student awareness and knowledge on how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are used in higher education institutions (HEIs) to motivate students’ learning on sustainability. It is essential to consider students’ understanding of sustainability at the end of
their studies to assess whether they feel prepared to apply sustainability in their daily work life. Design/methodology/approach – The study has a quantitative case study design, and the specific method used is an online survey with masters’ students using the university student platform EvaSys. The study assesses approaching how students perceive the overall education integrating sustainability into programs and curricula. Findings – The results showed that work-integrated learning (WIL) projects learning and real-life experiences as part of their studies enhanced the students’ understanding of sustainability. Moreover, the study showed that integrating an understanding of the SDGs in teaching offers universities a way to frame students’ key competencies in ways that allow them to develop their interpersonal competencies as ambassadors for sustainability in their future work life. Practical implications – This study supports the argument that WIL and real-life university experiences enhance students’ key competencies critical for sustainability.

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