Incorporating Sustainability into Higher Education: A Case Study of the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh
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The concept of sustainability has risen to global recognition and is manifest in various ways in higher education institutions. There are multiple models for implementing sustainability in this context, and an even greater number of actions within these. This research critically considers how sustainability is implemented in higher education institutions, addressing recurring barriers, and analysing the themes of sustainability, social responsibility, systems, and participation. It examines The University of Edinburgh’s (UoE) Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS), established in 2014, which has already accomplished much to incorporate the elements of sustainability. The case study is used to consider a particular model of operation and explore sustainability actions within a framework of seven realms of action developed for the purposes of this study. Data was collected through a focus group, semi-structured interviews with key members of staff, document analysis, and workshop observation. The research found that actions and strategies defined in the realms were addressed in the majority of cases. The SRS department therefore exemplifies how a sustainability department can tackle the myriad of sustainability elements to unify and support momentum throughout the university, making sustainability part of the way that UoE makes world leading contributions.