Research Article Open Access

Higher Education for Sustainable Development: Students' Perspectives on an Innovative Approach to Educational Change

Matthias Barth1 and Jana-M. Timm1
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Journal of Social Sciences
Volume 7 No. 1, 2011, 13-23


Submitted On: 1 June 2005 Published On: 18 December 2010

How to Cite: Barth, M. & Timm, J. (2011). Higher Education for Sustainable Development: Students' Perspectives on an Innovative Approach to Educational Change. Journal of Social Sciences, 7(1), 13-23.


Problem statement: With Higher Education for Sustainable Development (HESD) being an innovative approach to educational change, its principal objective is students’ development of transformation competencies. However, HESD evaluations hardly consider students’ perspectives. This study presents a study that examined undergraduate students’ view on the HESD approach at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg (Germany) and aims at shedding light on their acceptance and perceptions of such an HESD learning setting. Approach: For this purpose, two corresponding surveys were carried out that analyzed the impact of such a curriculum design on undergraduate students of the 2nd and 4th semester. Results: A high rate of 75.4% of the undergraduate students indicated their commitment towards the Leuphana University study model. Simultaneously they showed a sophisticated understanding of the concept of sustainability and agreed with the values associated. Comparing the results of three different student groups with variation in the degree of sustainability related studies, a group of students studying sustainability in their minor as a second subject beside disciplinary oriented studies showed a significant higher acceptance rate than their study peers. Conclusion: These results suggest that the Leuphana University holistic HESD education approach may not only be attractive to inherently sustainability affiliated prospective students but particularly also to open, tolerant and cosmopolitan young people that are interested to attend interdisciplinary sustainability studies besides their major study subject. Thus, the learner-centered approach is connected to students’ lifeworld experience, which provides an opportunity to also attract those students that might be less familiar with the sustainability concept.

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  • Sustainability education
  • Higher Education for Sustainable Development (HESD)
  • curriculum change
  • student survey
  • Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)