Canadian University Presidents on Sustainability: Definitions, Roles and Ways Forward
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Increasingly, universities are being tasked with leading the way to a sustainable future. Yet little is known about how Canadian university presidents conceptualize sustainable development and the role of the university in this endeavor. With studies demonstrating that it is important for university stakeholders to share common understandings of sustainability, and that administrators are especially instrumental in the pursuit of a sustainable university, these stakeholders’ perspectives and values around the concept of sustainability in higher education are significant. This study, which included in-depth interviews with 26 Canadian university presidents, revealed that presidents have substantially high levels of eco-literacy surrounding the concept of sustainable development and understand sustainability in higher education in measures relevant to their jurisdiction. Barriers were primarily financial, although cost-savings through energy reduction was also noted as a benefit, along with it being “the right thing to do” and worthwhile because of its perceived significance to students. The piece ends with recommendations for practitioners of sustainability, policy makers, researchers and university administrators.