Virtual, collaborative and multinational universities for sustainability?

Higher Education is active in researching sustainability and in developing campus sustainability but it may also have particular responsibilities to influence young people via courses of study, in ways that will lead to the increased sustainability of society. In this area Higher Education has so far had limited impact. A great deal of discussion has resulted in different viewpoints on academic freedom, academic responsibility, advocacy and action competence. The actions of higher education institutions in the broad area of teaching students sustainability may be limited by funding, by student interest, by competition between institutions, by the needs of the professions and by the happenstance of who is managing each institution, and who is there to teach at each institution, at any particular instance. The collective consequences of these circumstances are what we see today; great variability within the sector and confusion about the roles of Higher Education. At present it seems unlikely that Higher Education will be able to address sustainability comprehensively. This should be a concern for governments, for higher education regulatory bodies and indeed for society.

Different models of higher education governance and economics need to be explored. Could institutions that individually find education for sustainability a difficult path, succeed collaboratively? What issues currently inhibit collaboration? What new technologies will enable successful collaboration? Could education for sustainability be important enough to overcome the issues that currently prevent collaboration? Could we develop virtual, collaborative, multinational universities for sustainability? Could these focus on producing graduates who can make a difference?