Sustainability Assessment Using a Unit-based Sustainability Assessment Tool: The case of three teaching departments at Rhodes University, South Africa
A sustainability assessment study was performed with three teaching departments at Rhodes University – Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Anthropology, and Accounting. The assessment used a Unit-based Sustainability Assessment Tool (USAT) and was guided by systems thinking and the ontological framework provided by critical realism. Results of the study showed that the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science had a higher integration of sustainability issues in its activities than the other departments sampled, with Accounting having the lowest integration. Interviews conducted with departmental heads and content analyses of documents revealed differences in sustainability issues addressed and in approaches used in tackling them among these departments. The study is intended to inform the Mainstreaming of Environment and Sustainability in African (MESA) Universities Partnership, which promotes mainstreaming environment and sustainability in universities during the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The study does not provide answers to mainstreaming activities, but opens up space to debate and deliberate how to deal with the mainstreaming of sustainability in universities. It identified some of the challenges to be addressed in university-wide mainstreaming work, and affirmed the need for systems thinking in bringing about change at institutional level to extend changes taking place in individual teaching contexts.
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