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The purpose of this paper is to develop a higher education funding and employment system that obviates barriers to sustainable development and helps engrain the notion of sustainability into the institutional framework.Design/methodology/approachThe “Higher Education Sustainability First System” (HESFS) is a conceptual model that builds upon ideas from previous literature. Its theoretical basis draws on a joint value creation framework from the stakeholder theory and business model perspectives.FindingsA holistic three-pillar approach that offers multiple value propositions is needed to engage the stakeholders to collaborate for the coherent functioning of the HESFS. This will enable the establishment of a viable innovative financial model and the institution of a sustainability-focused student employment program that are facilitated by a robust sustainable infrastructure. Several sustainable development goals may be furthered in the process.Research limitations/implicationsThe applicability of a part or entire HESFS depends on the characteristics of the higher education institution and the level of its maturity in a sustainable development process. Although its different constituents have been empirically validated in literature, the HESFS model could be applied in a case study to determine its potential feasibility.Practical implicationsThe HESFS may inspire policymakers, businesses and higher education institutions to forge alliances to devise innovative resources of funding and engage in employment partnerships that can lead to progress in sustainable development. It may particularly be useful for institutions in developing and less developed countries, where inequality and high youth unemployment rates prevail.Originality/valueBy focusing on an under-researched topic through a multitheoretical perspective, this study contributes to theories pertaining to stakeholder engagement and business models.
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 21, 2020
Keywords: Stakeholder theory; Business model; Sustainable development goals; Higher education finance; Joint value creation
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