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Higher education for sustainable development in China

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to analyse the significance of developments across Chinese higher education in the field of education and learning for sustainable development (SD) and to assess the relative impact of these initiatives. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This is a review of policy and practice to examine developments, challenges, and prospects for education for sustainable development (ESD) in higher education in China. Selected educational and operational activities in different universities are presented for analysis and contextualized in relation to the aims of Agenda 21 in China and the broader ESD movement. Findings ‐ Key barriers for the balance and promotion of ESD in higher education are identified, with particular focus on regional differences in this vast developing nation, and the need for broader educational approaches across academic disciplines. Teaching about SD has been integrated into technical fields, especially at universities in major cities, and research has been undertaken to develop economically effective and environmentally friendly innovations. However, resources and capacity are still very limited, given the ambitions associated with SD in China. National and international networks and collaborations must be promoted, and curricula and research need to be reoriented, to progress education and change for SD in Chinese higher education. Originality/value ‐ Little analysis has taken place regarding the progress of ESD in higher education in China. This paper provides an initial survey of leading developments and an assessment of the relative success to date in this field, for comparison with progress in other regions and countries. The identification of challenges faced by China with regard to sustainability and economic development should help to contextualize efforts towards sustainability innovation in higher education. The paper considers the rapid economic, ecological and social change being experienced in China and the substantial challenges of scale and localization involved in its SD initiatives.
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Keywords: China; Higher education; Sustainable development

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2010

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