Higher Education for Sustainability: A Critical Review of the Empirical Evidence 2013–2020

Probst, L. (2022). “Higher Education for Sustainability: A Critical Review of the Empirical Evidence 2013–2020.” Sustainability 14(6), 3402. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063402

Abstract: Higher education for sustainable development (HESD) has grown into a substantial field of research and practice. HESD proposes that higher education will be central in a transition towards more sustainable socio-ecological systems. However, the debates on what should be learned in HESD and how this should be learned have remained conceptually controversial and empirically inconclusive. This review examined the evidence that specific pedagogies and content lead to specific “sustainability outcomes” among graduates. Three hundred and fifty-seven studies published between 2013 and 2020 were analyzed. The reviewed research was case-driven and often undertheorized regarding learning processes and outcomes. Despite its volume, the literature did not provide coherent insights into what should be learned and how. If the project of HESD is to be pursued further, more courage will be needed in creating novel forms of higher education, while more purpose and conceptual precision will be required in future research.

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