Purpose. Research on student views of sustainability issues abounds in the literature. Student responses to university sustainability however, as a phenomenon taking place within the time and space of higher education, seem to be under-researched. This study explores how university sustainability is perceived by postgraduate students of the Educational Research and Sustainable Development programmes at the University of Exeter. The aim is to explore whether programme of study influences student response to university sustainability. Design/Methodology/Approach: An on-line questionnaire containing Likert type items was administered to the students of the two programmes. As university sustainability is a still evolving concept which lacks a well-established definition, the content of the questionnaire items was based on descriptions of university sustainability by major higher education stakeholders. Replies were coded and the resulting data were analysed statistically to explore the differences between the two groups.
Findings. Programme of study is seen to influence sustainability knowledge, with sustainable development students scoring significantly higher in the knowledge scale than educational research students. The findings indicate a positive correlation between knowledge of and attitudes towards sustainability. The results compare favourably with findings of previous research, which supports infusion of sustainability content across the curriculum as a means of improving graduate sustainability literacy. Research Limitations. Exploring how programme of study impacts students' sustainability attitudes needs to be further researched as correlation does not necessarily indicate causality and factors other than academic experience might have influenced student performance. The convenience sample used for data collection and the relatively low response rate do not allow transferability or generalizability of the results. Practical Implications: As student voice is gradually becoming a crucial component for universities' development with the increase of tuition fees, the demand for a comprehensive understanding of student sustainability needs emerges. The study attempts to address this necessity through an investigation of postgraduate views on university sustainability. Moreover, a suggestion put forward by this paper is that assessment of the impact sustainability initiatives have on student experience might be more efficient if audits focus on university rather than universal sustainability issues. Originality/Value. The present study employs for the first time the term 'university sustainability' to denote sustainability practices taking place within the time and space of higher education. While past research has examined mainly undergraduates' opinions of sustainability, this study focuses exclusively on postgraduates as they have greater experience of higher education settings. Finally, by examining both attitudes and knowledge a holistic exploration of student response is attempted with the majority of the previous research focusing on either attitudes or knowledge.
Oxford Brookes Business School\Oxford Brookes Business School\Department of Business and Management
Year of publication: 2015Date of RADAR deposit: 2018-05-15