Sustainability competencies within the universities: systematic literature review




Universities; Sustainability; Competence development.


It’s a well-known fact that universities have the power to change society. For this reason they are considered key actors of sustainable development. Education was highlighted in the 2030 Agenda increasing the number of papers pertaining to universities' role in this pursuit. This paper aims to understand how international research is being developed on the matter of sustainability in universities. For that, our methodology of choice was a bibliometric mapping followed by a systematic revision of published material on the topic. Our source for data was the Scopus platform.Results show us that the studies are mostly being developed from an academic perspective with sustainable competences aiming towards the students who are seen as the future professionals who will be making important decisions. From that we conclude that sustainable management of universities particularly focusing on development sustainable competencies is a research field that hasn’t been fully explored yet even though these institutions are recognized as catalysts for change and understood as having a key role on sustainable development.


Avery, H. & Nordén, B. (2017) Working with the divides Two critical axes in development for transformative professional practices - International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. 18(5), 666-680

Baker-Shelley, A, Zeijl-Rozema, A, & Martens, P (2017). A conceptual synthesis of organisational transformation: How todiagnose, and navigate, pathways for sustainability at universities? Journal of Cleaner Production, 145, 262-276

Barth, M. & Rieckmann, M. (2012) Academic staff development as a catalyst for curriculum change towards education for sustainable development: An output perspective - Journal of Cleaner Production. 26, 28-36

Bastida, M., García, A. V., Márquez, M. C., & Blanco, A. O (2020). Fostering the sustainable development goals from an ecosystemconducive to the SE: The Galician’s case. Sustainability 12(2), 1–17

Berchin at al (2018). The importance of international conferences on sustainable development as higher education institutions' strategies to promote sustainability: A case study in Brazil. Journal of Cleaner Production, 171, 756 – 772

Brundiers, K., Wiek, A. & Redman, C. L. (2010). Real-world learning opportunities in sustainability: from classroom into the real world - International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. 11(4), 308-324

Di Nauta, P., Iannuzzi, E., Milone, M., & Nigro, C (2020). The Impact of the Sustainability Principles on the Strategic Planning and Reporting of Universities. An Exploratory Study on a Qualified Italian Sample. Sustainability, 12, 7269

Faria, P. M. (2016). Revisão sistemática da literatura: contributo para um novo paradigma investigativo, metodologia e procedimentos na área da educação, aplicação prática aos temas desenvolvimento profissional docente e inovação educativa com tecnologias digitais. Santo Tirso. Ed. Whitebooks

Hauff, M. V. & Nguyen, T. (2014). Universities as Potential Actors for Sustainable Development– Sustainability, 6, 3043-3063

Le Boterf, G. (2003). Desenvolvendo a competência dos profissionais. (3a ed). Artmed.

Leal Filho, W. at al (2018). The role of transformation in learning and education for sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 199. 286-295

Litre, G., Bursztyn, M., Simoni, J., & Reis, R (2020). Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through good enough governance. Agrociencia Uruguay, 24(2)

Lozano, R, Lukman, R, Lozano, F. J, Huisingh, D, & Lambrechts, W (2013). Declarations for sustainability in higher education: becoming better leaders, through addressing the university system. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48, 10-19

Munck, L., Borim-de-Souza, R., Castro, A. L., & Zagui, C (2011). Modelos de gestão de competências versus processo de validação. Um ponto cego? Revista de Administração. 46(2), 107-121

Ofei-Manu, P., & Didham, R. J (2018). Identifying the factors for sustainability learning performance. Journal of Cleaner Production, v.198, p.1173-1184

Schopp, K., Bornemann, M. & Potthast, T. (2020) The whole-institution approach at the University of Tubingen: Sustainable development set in practice - Sustainability, 2020, 12(3).

Valencia, S. C. at al (2019). Adapting the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda to the city level: Initial reflections from a comparative. International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development. 11:1, 4-23

Velazquez, L., Munguia, N., Platt, A. & Taddei, J. (2006). Sustainable university: what can be the matter? Journal of Cleaner Production 14, 810-819

Wals, A. E. J. (2014). Sustainability in higher education in the context of the UN DESD: a review of learning and institutionalization processes - Journal of Cleaner Production, 8 -15

WCED – World Commission on Environmnt and Development (1987) Our Comon Future – The Brundtland Report – Oxford, oxford University Press

Zarifian, P. (2008). Objetivo competência: por uma nova lógica. Atlas.



How to Cite

LIRA, J. de O. L. .; MARTINS, M. de F. . Sustainability competencies within the universities: systematic literature review. Research, Society and Development, [S. l.], v. 10, n. 13, p. e444101321430, 2021. DOI: 10.33448/rsd-v10i13.21430. Disponível em: Acesso em: 23 sep. 2023.



Human and Social Sciences