AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

From Vision to Action: Transitions to Sustainability in Otago’s Tertiary Education Institutions.

by Felicity Claire Topp

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: sustainability; transition; tertiary; education; institution; governance; leadership; culture; social; science; systems; Otago; University; Polytechnic; sustainable; practice; participation; decision; structure; strategic
Record ID: 1311032
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5621


The imperative for tertiary education institutions (TEIs) to use their unique and influential positions to assist society in a transition toward sustainability is keenly observed in the public sphere, as the global environmental crisis looms ever closer. Despite an increasing level of expectation at the global level and a certain resonance with the challenge, TEIs do not demonstrate an innate ability to perform this task, and their collective response has been slow. This thesis explores how TEIs are addressing sustainability, through a comparative case study approach. The University of Otago - Te Whare W!nanga o Ot!go, and Otago Polytechnic - Te Kura Matatini ki Ot!go, are neighboring institutions operating within similar conditions. However, their approaches to sustainability have previously been recognised as distinct. The qualitative approach used for this research was designed to gather information that would enable an investigation into the institutional practice of sustainability and the process of its development. The study maintains a focus on lived experiences and questions of change at the day-to-day level, where individual engagement, decision making and innovation serve to constitute and evolve the processes, structures and cultures of an institution. The analysis of emergent themes in interviews with staff at the TEIs uncovered elements of governance, social mechanisms and processes that are influential in the transition toward sustainability. Findings hold compelling implications for systems approaches. Clear evidence was found of the viability of sustainability as the strategic direction for a TEI. In uncovering and explaining relevant structures and processes that govern events in terms with universal relevance, it is hoped this study may have transformative value outside the context in which it was formed.