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HOW UNIVERSITIES CAN CONTRIBUTE TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: A NEW CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

A.I. Popescu

The Bucharest University of Economic Studies (ROMANIA)
There has been an increasing interest in sustainable development (SD) and how various types of organizations should contribute to its achievement. It was widely acknowledged that universities have a significant impact on society and on economic growth, and therefore have the potential to become a key driver force in the process of increasing sustainability among all three dimensions (economic, social and environmental). However, most researches conducted so far focused mainly on one or few directions of action, mainly on universities’ contribution to sustainable development through teaching and learning (curriculum development). The methodology used in this study is the critical analysis of an interdisciplinary body of literature that approached the concept of sustainable development (e.g. knowledge management, innovation, technological transfer, regional development), and of international universities’ best practices; the qualitative approach was considered to be the best suited to capture and investigate a complex construct. We noted the following dimensions to be relevant for our investigation: education and training (curriculum development), fundamental research, applied research, infrastructure support to third parties’ activities with potential to enhance sustainable development, community involvement. This study uses the conceptual theory building to develop a framework and propositions to assess the contribution of universities’ to achieving sustainable development, and makes recommendations to move forward towards increasing universities’ contribution to sustainable development.