The Lüneburg Sustainable University Project in international comparison: an assessment against North American peers

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Purpose - To assess the Lüneburg Sustainable University Project (the Project) in a non-European international context; to relate the project scholarly approach to selected scholarly and practice-oriented North American sustainability in higher education (SHE) methods; to analyze project innovations against North American initiatives. Design/methodology/approach - Benchmarking indicators were developed inductively in four SHE areas - governance/ administration, curriculum/student opportunities, research/scholarship, and operations - via thematic content analysis of 15 descriptions of USA and Canadian universities active in SHE. Data were triangulated with data from the four Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Campus Sustainability Leaders 2006. Findings - The assessment against selected North American peers suggests that the project is unique in its scholarly approach to and scientific foundation of sustainability in higher education. The transdisciplinary transformative case study is not replicated at any of the comparison institutions; however, elements of the approach and scholarly framework can be found at all North American universities participating in this assessment. North American institutions tend to excel in operational innovations; to keep abreast of international developments, University of Lüneburg is encouraged to commit to a climate-neutral campus strategy and to implement a sustainability management system, amongst other initiatives. Practical implications - Knowledge transfer and capacity-building: North American post-secondary institutions can learn from the theoretically-guided, applied research-based approach to SHE. Through intensified exchange (partnerships) with North American peers, the project and the University of Lüneburg stand to profit from community-based research approaches and the practice-oriented work of USA and Canadian campus sustainability offices. Originality/value - The paper contributes an "outsider's perspective" to the project evaluation. Methodologically, the paper contributes to inductive SHE indicator development.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)446-461
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 25.09.2007

    Research areas

  • Environmental planning - sustainable development, Higher education, Benchmarking, Best practice, Germany, North America