Higher education in Europe Journal

Table 1. Classification of respondent by country

There were a total of 203 respondents, which were composed of 60% Male and 40% female participants. A total of twenty-two countries were represented and students made up 84% of the responses. From the 203 responses, there were a total of 216 classifications. This stems from the fact that students are also employed at Universities. A total of thirteen students identified themselves as concurrent employees in the areas of sustainability staff, educational staff and executive management.

It is important to note the significance in the number of respondents. Although 56 respondents were from the AASHE conference, there was also significant participation from a wide variety of stakeholders outside of AASHE. There are not enough respondents to make any definitive conclusions about preferences and behaviors of higher institution stakeholder internationally. There is, however, a substantial amount of respondents that provide adequate data for this level of empirical research.

3.1 Student Needs

In order to address student needs, several questions were asked. The first question was meant to create a baseline for understanding what the general perception of the term sustainability was to the students. Students were asked to choose which terms were best associated with sustainability from a list of terms. The results showed that students are associating a wide variety of terms with sustainability which is an affirmation that there is a more fundamental understanding of the depth and ambiguity of the term. The results are shown in Figure 3.

This understanding was validated by a follow-up question which asked participants to define sustainability. This question did not seek to define sustainability, but rather sought to discover how many participants misunderstood sustainability as being solely an ecological term. The results showed that only 3% of participants related sustainability as being solely an ecological term. It is important to note that there was no noticeable bias that stemmed from AASHE participants.

Overall, the responses to these questions help establish that students are fairly proficient with the term sustainability in the broadest context. The responses suggest that the complexity of the term, as well as the ambiguity, is understood by the students. There is no noticeable bias from AASHE participants; however there is a certain level of bias that may stem from the sustainability inclined participants targeted in the digital promotion.

The survey also validated Bone and Agombar’s (2011) conclusion that sustainability is an important part of the student decision making process. When asked if the sustainability of a higher education institution was import in their selection, 90% responded that it did. This helps validate that Bone and Agombar’s conclusion is applicable in a more international context rather than just in the United Kingdom.

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