Do formal policies for sustainable development make a difference? A comparison of students from two different universities, one in the UK and one in Portugal

This source preferred by Chris Shiel

Authors: Shiel, C. and do Paco, A.

Start date: 5 June 2012

If we are to achieve sustainable development and secure targets for carbon reduction then universities have a role to play in educating students to address sustainable development (SD) and influencing behaviour change. Some universities have already developed approaches to address SD within the curriculum, on campus and in the community; others have done far less, or very little. The assumption might be that students from a university which is formally addressing SD, should exhibit different attitudes and behaviours to students from a university where SD is not a concern. This paper will compare the environmental consciousness level and “green” behaviour of students from a university in Portugal which has no formal sustainable policies, nor a structure supporting the development of global citizenship, with a University in the UK where a formal policy has been implemented which embraces a holistic approach to SD and global citizenship. Analysis of survey data from the two student populations reveals significant differences in environmental attitudes, with students from the UK University displaying greater concern about the environment, greater belief that their actions can influence change and more concern with conservation and buying locally sourced food. The Portuguese students are more concerned about future generations. The conclusion suggests that formal policies do have an impact however the cultural context must also be considered.

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