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Purpose – Research on sustainability in higher education has focused on environmental management of the university campus, case studies and examples of good practice. Although the value and contribution of these initiatives has been articulated, little holistic and structural transformation of universities has been achieved so far. This paper aims to explore different theoretical frameworks to better understand and improve the effectiveness of organisational change processes towards sustainability in universities. Design/methodology/approach – The combination of different theoretical approaches on organisational learning such as organisational learning theory, the idea of expansive learning at work, the ideal of the learning organisation and transformative learning theory are reviewed in this paper. These ideas in combination with leadership for sustainability and education for sustainability lead to an integrative model that links theory and practice, cultural and social aspects influencing learning, and the ability of individuals to critically reflect and challenge existing worldviews to learn and develop new practices. Findings – The theoretical foundations and model presented seek to provide useful theoretical basis with which to better understand the process of transformation towards sustainability in higher education. This involves a continuous process of learning to rethink existing practices and worldviews by individuals within the organisation, which lead to community learning, which in turn lead to organisational learning. Six key implications for action have also been identified. Originality/value – Little research exists that uses organisational learning to inform the design and development of the research reporting on the achievements, opportunities and challenges emerged during the change process towards embedding sustainability in higher education. The suggested framework is envisaged as an integrative theoretical framework that can help understand the “how to”, thus the learning processes associated with embedding sustainability in the core activities of universities.
Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 15, 2013
Keywords: Higher education; Sustainability; Organisational learning; Leadership; Transformative learning; Expansive learning
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