Education for sustainable development: Insights from Canadian and South African universities




Sustainability, Education for sustainable development, Higher education, UN's 2030 agenda, Document analysis, Comparative studies


Universities can play a key role in contributing to a sustainable future for our planet and its inhabitants. In times of constant changes, there is a growing urgency to reflect on the vision of universities as well as their respective practices and projects that can promote the creation of sustainable societies. As is evident in scholarly literature, there is a need to empower universities and enhance their ability to prepare individuals who can confront global sustainability challenges and pursue sustainable development. The United Nations’ adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015 recognised that societal problems were territorially blind, meaning that no country has sufficient knowledge or research capacity to solve all challenges on its own. To that end, this qualitative, comparative research study represents the unified effort of two very different countries to explore the topic of education for sustainable development (SD) at universities. The study employed a document analysis of selected publicly funded universities in Canada and South Africa. Gathered documents are from the past seven years and include the universities’ mission and vision statements, annual reports, and strategic plans. The three main questions addressed in this work are: (a) What is the status and role of higher education for SD in Canada and South Africa? (b) What areas of SD are on the agenda of universities under investigation in Canada and South Africa? (c) What are the main similarities and differences between the two contexts under investigation? Findings indicate that universities focus on several aspects of SD, namely sustainable education, sustainable relationships, and sustainable initiatives. The paper discusses these areas for each country in connection to their contextual setting. Although the study’s findings cannot be generalised, they can be informative for other universities and contexts and thus contribute to the body of knowledge about education for SD in higher education.


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How to Cite

Saudelli, M. G., & Niemczyk, E. (2022). Education for sustainable development: Insights from Canadian and South African universities. Perspectives in Education, 40(3), 47-61.