Research Papers

Document Type

Conference Paper


UNESCO’s (2021) report on engineering for sustainable development has emphasized the critical role of engineers in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, there is a lack of clarity about the conceptualization or definition of sustainability (Moore et al., 2017), which makes it difficult to integrate sustainability into the curriculum. While Walshe (2008) conducted a study on high school students’ conceptions of sustainability in the UK, there appears to be a lack of research conducted in the context of higher education. The study presented in this paper explores engineering students’ understanding of sustainability in engineering and how it is influenced by their learning experience in the Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP) in University College London (UCL) . Taking a mixed-methods approach, a survey was administered to 139 first-year engineering students followed by individual interviews with 10 students. The survey contained a section which asked students to indicate the extent to which ten different sustainability issues (e.g. creating economic growth, saving lives) are associated with the field of engineering (Klotz et al., 2014). It was found that 65% of the students indicated that “improving the quality of life” is “very much” related to engineering, but less than 50% of them indicated that the remaining nine sustainability issues are “very much” related. Follow-up interviews suggest diverse understandings of sustainability among engineering students, with individual differences in their perception of the learning experience at the university. Findings from the study have important implications for the integration of sustainability in engineering education and will be discussed.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.