The paradox model: towards a conceptual framework for engaging with sustainability in higher education

Journal article


Kemp, N. and Scoffham, S. 2020. The paradox model: towards a conceptual framework for engaging with sustainability in higher education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-08-2020-0311
AuthorsKemp, N. and Scoffham, S.
Abstract

The growing awareness of climate change, biodiversity loss and the wider global environmental emergency has led to calls for decisive and immediate action from all sections of society. In this paper we consider the question of how universities should respond and what role they might best adopt in current circumstances. We present a conceptual framework, the paradox model, which places sustainability within the contradictory, messy and uncertain terrain that characterises Higher Education. This is derived from our own experience of leading sustainability within one UK university as well as our continued engagement with educational theory and philosophy. We identify two fundamental contradictions or paradoxes facing those seeking to engage in sustainability in Higher Education: (1) how to develop authentic sustainability responses within the context of existing higher education structures and processes (2) How to reconcile the demand for immediate action with the much more gradual processes of education. We represent these two paradoxes as intersecting axes on a diagram which creates four quadrants in which a diverse range of responses can be located. The point where these two axes intersect is particularly significant and provides a place from which to navigate responses both individually, collectively and institutionally. We argue that wisdom provides a guiding principle for discerning which type of response might be appropriate in any given context. It may also indicate a route towards institutional change and underpin the vision of the ecological university of the future based on principles of civic responsibility and social justice.

KeywordsConceptual framework; Sustainability education; Higher education; Wisdom
Year2020
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
PublisherEmerald Insight
ISSN 1467-6370
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-08-2020-0311
Official URLhttp://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-08-2020-0311
Publication dates
Online08 Feb 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted09 Dec 2020
Deposited12 Apr 2021
Accepted author manuscript
License
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
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https://repository.canterbury.ac.uk/item/8wxx0/the-paradox-model-towards-a-conceptual-framework-for-engaging-with-sustainability-in-higher-education

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