This study employs the analytical method of cognition. To achieve the most objective results of the research, we studied the HEIs included in the international rating – Times Higher Education Impact Rankings (THE Impact Rankings). The study covered HEIs from all over the world, which were ranked top 50. This enabled us to eliminate subjectivity in the assessment of the progress of world universities in terms of sustainable development.
The analysis of cases of leading higher education institutions allowed us to identify key aspects and components of ensuring sustainable development. The results of the conceptualization of our model of sustainable development of HEIs are shown in Fig. 1.
The ‘core’ of the model is the institution of higher education itself, represented by the synergy of the interaction of:
– students through their unconventional, creative thinking;
– researchers through their innovative developments and inventions;
– teachers through their initiative and innovative approaches to working with young people;
– management and administrative personnel through their ability to motivate, encourage and support.
Successful implementation of sustainable development models for HEIs requires coordinated interaction among all participants in the educational process, both by themselves and with stakeholders (public, local and central authorities, business, developing relevant regulatory support, and strengthening of the institutional capacity of universities. The key factor for the success of this model is the availability of stable support for sustainable initiatives both from the management of the HEI and from partners. Such support can be material and technical, financial, organizational, consulting, expert, methodological, informational, and so on.
The main blocks of the model of sustainable development of higher education institutions are:
I – Sustainable teaching – introducing the principles of sustainability in all educational programmes, mandatory inclusion of its aspects in final qualification papers of students of various majors, as well as in the teaching methods in the framework of different academic disciplines at universities;
II – Sustainable research – orientation of fundamental and applied research, research projects of universities to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), identification of ways and tools to overcome obstacles to the transition of higher education institutions to functioning based on sustainability;
III – Sustainable campus – implementation of a set of measures to improve the energy efficiency of university buildings, rational use of water resources, greening the territory, introducing environmentally friendly transport within the campus, cultivating a culture of waste management, etc.;
IV – Sustainable partnership – the widest possible involvement of various groups of stakeholders in the implementing initiatives to achieve the SDGs (not only as beneficiaries of the results and effects obtained, but also as members of project teams for developing relevant projects, planning a system of measures for their implementation, monitoring the effectiveness of achieving the goals set).
The introduction of the current model of sustainable development of higher education institutions proposed in the project will allow HEIs in Ukraine to strengthen their contribution to achieving the SDGs; increase the level of competitiveness; integrate into the world research and academic community; and attract more international students. In fact, sustainable development can be defined to a certain extent as a competitive advantage of the HEI, a way to improve its recognition in society, strengthen its brand and image, and deepen social responsibility.