Social Sustainability and Transformation in Higher Educational Settings: A Utopia or Possibility?

Lilli-Ann Wolff, Peter Ehrström

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Social sustainability is a dimension of sustainability that has received little attention. Our aims in this article are to create a definition of social sustainability based on a comprehensive literature study, and to discuss the implementation of the concept in higher education settings at theoretical and practical levels. We also aim to answer the question of whether it is possible to achieve a socially sustainable and transformative practice in educational contexts. Our approach in the study is critical and reflective and, firstly, built on a literature review including policy documents, research articles and books on sustainability from the perspectives of education and social studies. Secondly, we provide examples of practice from four university sustainability courses. In these courses, social sustainability appears in an interdisciplinary and a sustainable leadership framework. The conclusion from this study is that it is possible to implement social sustainability in various ways at the course level. We identify elementary features at basic, personal and educational levels that facilitate the implementation. However, we see the inclusion of social sustainability as the only way to reshape education and rethink the role of educational institutions. In this reshaping, ethics is the core.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4176–
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Social sustainability
  • Higher Education
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable Development
  • Urban Transformation


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