Researchers from universities in Belgium, Mexico, Slovenia, the UK and the USA are setting out to look at the implementation of sustainable development principles, “as set up by the different declarations, partnerships, and initiatives into higher education institutions worldwide and what they have achieved”. This is being done through an on-line survey distributed in an untargeted way through mail-lists, e-forums, and the like. The survey is here, should you feel qualified to respond. NB, it will take longer than the promised 20 minutes – if you're inclined to think about your responses.
Asking questions about sustainable development is notoriously tricky, given the complexity of the issues, and the competing (complementary, on a good day) conceptual framings that abound. Thus, for researchers, making it clear what you mean by "sustainable development principles" seems necessary if any sort of validity is to be achieved. In respect of this, the researchers note:
For the purposes of this survey, sustainable development encompasses the economic, environmental, and social dimensions, as well as intra- and inter-generational equities.
But this seems awfully loose, and lacking in rigour. Do you have to have all these dimensions and equities in place for something to count? Or some combination of them – any combination, perhaps? Essentially, will universities (actually, the unknown individuals in universities who'll be responding – another problematic validity issue), be free to identify whatever they want as sustainable development? I fear they will.
What, then, will all this be worth?