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Capital, Science and Policy Practice. Climate Risk and Resilience. Disaster Response Center. Finance and Process Transformation. The Future of Financial Services. Geopolitical Risk. A polemic stance on sustainability could be that the primary purpose of a university is to educate staff, students and hence society at large, on the need to operate within sustainable guidelines.
Such an institution would put sustainability at the forefront of its research, knowledge exchange, learning, teaching and campus operations, in line with its remit to be a public good for the public good.
We concur with this — albeit idealistic — view. However, in most nations around the world, universities now operate in a market or quasi-market environment, relying on models of competition for income generation rather than government subsidy or grant; this challenges their responses to multiple competing and conflicting agendas, including the place and priority for sustainability. In this book, we take the current context of HE as a given and concentrate on how sustainability, and leadership for sustainability, can maximize its achievements within this given framework.
We also recognize that we draw on our experience of working within a Western European context to develop our arguments and proposals. Notwithstanding these caveats, we believe that academics and their students have the capability within their research to produce new knowledge and ways of thinking that can challenge current science, systems and society to enable the paradigm shift required for a sustainable future. It is our intention that Leadership for Sustainability in Higher Education will help the reader whether manager, academic, research student or policymaker understand and question the role of universities with regard to sustainability, and how leadership in this area can navigate through this complex environment.
Sustainability, leadership and HE as themes or concepts, in isolation, face a labyrinthine scope, construct and external drivers. This makes understanding and forging actions in each challenging for those operating in this space. Together they present an extreme challenge and opportunity to universities as they look to their purpose, position and values in a global market. We start our undertaking by describing and analysing core aspects of: i leadership and leadership theory; ii sustainability concepts and iii HE sector dynamics separately.
Following this we undertake to explore their combined role in decision-making and good practice.
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The babel fish enabled any person who put it in his or her ear to immediately understand any other language. We liken our role to that of a HE babel fish, whose role it is to interpret sustainability objectives in a manner which is appropriate to an operational context where multiple ideologies, perspectives and priorities abound.
Our intention is for those reading this book to be able to take forward decision-making regarding sustainability in their universities using an approach which is theoretically sound yet practice based, and where key stakeholders are in accord with the agenda. As a tool for translation, we have sought to find means by which sustainability can be seen as the missing link in terms of the modern-day purpose of HE. We draw on the work of the well-known educationalist, Ronald Barnett , who undertook a descriptive analysis of the historical, and future, purpose and perspectives of universities since their inception in the monastic traditions or more years ago.
We share his view that university typologies need to develop away from the purely commercially led, utilitarian, private goods focus, towards more authentic and responsible typologies. Barnett identifies opportunities for universities to be authentic to the HE calling, while contributing to the advancement of learning in ways that can permeate society, linking with society for the benefit of physical and human needs.go to link
The Project Gutenberg E-text of The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
Universities, like most organizations, are not homogeneous entities, as could be suggested from the discourses in organizational behaviour, which have titles suggesting an institutional mindset with individuals fitting to this. They are a collection of individuals who are brought together by the same employer through a contract of employment with expectations of complying with organizational norms. Unlike most organizations, however, these multiple individuals are engaged in knowledge creation, critique and dissemination across multifaceted disciplines within which exist a wide range of ontologies and epistemologies, ranging from the theoretical to the empirical and vocational.
This provides a melting pot for creativity, disparate views, ideologies and priorities, some of which may be to rail against the values and remit of the very institution employing them. Despite this and in parallel, all universities need to engage in core business processes to support their knowledge creation, critique and dissemination research, knowledge exchange and learning and teaching , including finance, human resources, marketing and communications, information systems and estates and facilities. They are large businesses which cannot escape the need for hierarchy, order and procedure, ones which need to work within what can be distinct academic versus professional service cultures.
A particular challenge for leadership for sustainability in this regard is that its remit is cross-institutional and must work within and between the two. Sustainability within universities can be viewed through multiple lenses. It can be seen as a:. In every case, sustainability is never going to be something that has been completed — a boundless ideal maybe. Notwithstanding many great success stories of projects or schema progressing sustainability which we draw on in this book from our interviews , there are barriers, challenges and frustrations slowing, halting or even reversing the agenda too.
These include:. The challenge is to take forward the sustainability agenda within a changing HE dynamic, with the consequent pressures on universities to operate in a competitive, market environment. Bearing in mind the complexity and contested nature of the concept of sustainability in its own right, assessing and untangling what makes for effective leadership for sustainability within the HE sector could seem an overwhelming task but one that is much needed to navigate it successfully!
In writing this text, we are providing a much-needed reference for any manager or academic leader in HE seeking to initiate or lead a sustainability agenda in their institution. It is also intended for any academic, student researcher or policy maker researching or teaching leadership or organizational theory, combining the use of theoretical constructs with practice-based experience. Sustainability is — in itself — a messy concept, and the challenge of understanding it, applying it and leading for it, in a complex, multi-agent, organizational setting with 7 its potentially conflicting priorities cannot be underestimated.
To assist this, we have used our own key learning from our extensive academic, leadership and practitioner experience in this area, as well as results of primary research through interviews and engagement with many successful leaders within the sector, using a structured, theoretically based approach to draw out thoughts on good practice and challenges within their leadership roles.
Unlike other texts, this book brings together, in a logical and structured way, the wide range of influences and considerations that need to be understood to succeed in implementing sustainability in HE, including:. All these provide context for the reader within which to consider leadership for sustainability, both at an individual level and within the HE culture and organizational norms. Given all of the aforementioned, the first question is where to start?
We have structured Leadership for Sustainability in Higher Education to provide a logical progression in two dimensions see Figure 0. We recognize that readers may have diverse starting points of knowledge in each of the areas we consider, and we have addressed this by providing what we believe are the core ideas and principles early on in each chapter before taking forward the discussion. As a result, theory and practice are interwoven and amplify each other as the argument develops.