Integrated sustainability management and equality practices in universities: A case study of Jaume I University

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Emerald Group Publishing Ltd

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PurposeAcademic institutions have the power to generate positive change by implementing sustainable development initiatives. This study aims to make a holistic assessment of the universities' sustainability practices by explicitly focusing on equality and communication and by providing a general model for a university sustainability structure. In this context, the following questions were taken as references: How are the sustainability management mechanisms of universities? What are universities' practices regarding gender equality and equal opportunities? How do universities integrate education, training, R&D and community development activities into their systems to be sustainable and how do they manage sustainability communication? This study aims to present an exemplary model for universities planning to develop a sustainability system and integrate the sustainable development goals (SDGs) into their ordinary work structures. It draws an exhaustive picture of what a sustainable structure and equality practices for universities look like by providing data about basic development areas regarding sustainability and social development.Design/methodology/approachThis paper examines universities' general sustainability system from a holistic standpoint to illustrate the implementation of sustainability practices within the universities' plans and structure. In this qualitative research, the descriptive case study method is used. For this purpose, purposive sampling method is used where Jaume I University (Universitat Jaume I [UJI]) is selected as the sample due to its higher rankings despite its young age and its commitment to sustainability and equality. UJI is a public higher education and research university established in 1991 and is located in Castellon de la Plana in Valencia region of Spain. Its vision is to be a leading institution contributing to the social, cultural and economic aspects of sustainable development and to promote innovation, entrepreneurism, internationalization and social responsibility. It also has an non-governmental organization (NGO) working on equality. Three main data collection methods of descriptive research are used: (1) analysis of academic literature on sustainability in higher education institutions (HEIs); (2) document review: this review includes the systematic analysis of the case study university's documents such as strategic plans, workflow charts, procedures and protocols of the related units. These documents were analyzed in a multidimensional way, and all related reports were examined comparatively. (3) Observation and semistructured interview notes: The interviews were conducted with nine unit managers and some academics working on this issue to obtain details surrounding the collected data. With this method, it became possible to obtain detailed data about the strategy and practices of the institution and identify the relationship between them. The research was conducted between April 2022 and September 2022.FindingsAccording to the data, the main topics within the sustainability structure can be classified as (1) sustainability in teaching system, (2) sustainability in research, development and innovation research, development and innovation (R&D&I) activities, (3) sustainability in management structure, (3.1) governance, (3.2) ethics, (3.3) equality, (3.4) social responsibility and sustainability management and (3.5.) networks and collaborations, (4) sustainability communication and (5) community development. Each main heading includes subitems. In this context, 12 s subheadings and a total of 51 indicators under them have emerged. In addition to these, additional recommendations have been developed as a result of the analysis. This study's findings reveal that sustainability is related to each unit of the university and that every unit engages in practices for sustainability. However, for holistic sustainability management, all practices should be coordinated and integrated according to a strategic goal. The current situation and strategic goals related to sustainability should also be defined in line with the university's priority issues and stakeholders. Moreover, to achieve greater success and visibility, effective communication plays an important role. As such, alongside the conventional communication systems of academic units, it is crucial to establish a dedicated sustainability communication system as a distinct department.Research limitations/implicationsThis research is based on a case study method and is limited to the case of Jaume I University.Originality/valueTo the best of the authors' knowledge, this research is an original study designed in line with the in-depth analysis of all systems of a university and also the data obtained through face-to-face interview methods.


Anahtar Kelimeler

Equality, Organizational Communication, Sustainability Communication, Gender Equality, Sustainable Universities


International Journal of Sustainability In Higher Education

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