University of the Basque Country, Faculty of Engineering Bilbao (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2017 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 836-842
ISBN: 978-84-617-8491-2
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2017.0347
Conference name: 11th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2017
Location: Valencia, Spain
The urgent need to address the issue of engineering education for Sustainable Development (SD) would require redesigning the engineering curriculum. The integration of sustainability in regular courses will not be an easy task. To do it in an efficient way, we consider that it is first necessary to do an exploratory study in order to provide answers to the following questions: How much do engineering students know about SD? Do they identify the different dimensions of the SD? What are their knowledge gaps? 2) Do they find academic training in the field of SD and social responsibility crucial for a successful engineering career? Are they interested on this model?.

To answer these questions we carryied out a survey among undergraduate engineering students on their level of knowledge, understanding and perception of SD. The survey, which was carried out in May 2016, covered 190 undergraduates studying technological, chemical, management, mechanical, electrical, environmental and mining engineering from different years of study, both genders and two faculties of engineering of the University of the Basque Country (Bilbao and Vitoria-Gasteiz).

The survey was divided into three parts. The first part was included to collect data about the students so that to analyze the influence of a several variables (gender, engineering programme, year, and so on) on the level of knowledge, understanding and perception of SD. The second part was designed to provide information on the level of knowledge of the three dimensions of SD: environmental, social and economic. For this, a list of eighteen terms related to the different dimensions was posed and students were asked if they associate them to SD. Finally, the third part aimed to find out the perception and relevance of SD for their career, as well as their current level of knowledge and interest on it. It consisted of three questions, each with five possible answers on a scale from 1 (‘not important’ or ‘very low’) to 5 (‘very important’ or ‘very high’).

Our results suggest that, overall, their level is satisfactory for the environmental dimensions but that significant knowledge gaps exist between the environmental dimension and the other two dimensions (economic and social). Most of them had not heard of ‘external debt’ (94%) and ‘ecotaxes’ (82%) and or they had heard but do not relate ‘enrollment rate’ (88%), ‘transportation’ (88%), ‘economic growth’ (77%), ‘equity and social justice’ (75%) or ‘ethical shopping’ (66%) to SD. As expected the level of knowledge of dimensions was higher for environmental engineering students. On the other hand, it was interesting to observe that but there are no differences between the years of study. This suggests that SD is not sufficiently addressed on engineering programmes. On the other hand, an encouraging result is that engineering students believe that sustainable development is important. Most students (88%) claimed that that their responsibility over the SD is ‘high’ or ‘very high’. They are aware of the environmental protection both personally and professionally. In addition, most students are interested on building a sustainable society: 82% stated that this is ‘important’ or ‘very important’. Moreover, 64% said that their academic training in SD is ‘not enough’ to face future challenges is. These are important findings as they indicate that students could be engaged effectively in learning about SD.
Sustainable development, social responsabilty, engineering students, non-technical skills.