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Planning for Higher Education Journal

March 1, 2003

The Critical Role of Higher Education in Creating a Sustainable Future

Higher education can serve as a model of sustainability by fully integrating all aspects of campus life.

From Volume 31 Number 3 | March–May 2003

Abstract: The path to a healthy, just, and sustainable future for all current and future generations of humans and other biological species will require a transformative change in thinking values and action by all individuals and institutions in the next two decades. The institutions within higher education bear a moral responsibility to increase the awareness, knowledge, skills, and values needed to change the collective mind-set. Because it prepares most of society’s professionals and leaders, higher education plays a critical but often-overlooked role in making this vision a reality. This article explores how higher education would model sustainability as a fully integrated community intricately connecting learning, research, operations, purchasing investments, and work with local and regional communities. The envisioned framework for higher education will result in the interdisciplinary, systemic learning and practice needed to provide the educational experience for graduates to lead society on a sustainable path. It provides several examples of colleges and universities that have made some of these changes with an emphasis on curriculum connected to other college and university functions. It also suggests a new role for college and university planners in this transformation and provides other sources of information on the changes that are happening in higher education.

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