On the Roles of World-Class Universities and the Sustainability Agenda in Africa: A Case Study of Two Universities in South Africa and Egypt

  •  Gladys Mutinda    
  •  Zhimin Liu    


In the past decade, the World Class University discussion has become rampant due to the integral role that higher education plays in any economy's aspiration to compete globally while still pursuing sustainability. This article reports on a study that explored the roles played by world-class universities (WCUs) in fostering sustainability initiatives and practices in the African context. The article harnesses a document review approach that facilitates in-depth document analysis using two world-class institutions in Africa: The University of Cape Town in South Africa and American University in Cairo in Egypt as case studies. This study finds that world-class institutions in the two countries have rigorous, comprehensive sustainability organisations, synthesised and adopted from international agreements and concepts. The sustainability organisation is characterised by a less hierarchical approach to its management and leadership. Sustainability in research is fostered through environmental research and other key research areas such as food and medicine. Sustainable teaching is fostered through living-learning labs, redesigned curriculums, targeted degree programs and lecturer development through training and awards as incentives. Tangible, sustainable technology and innovation initiatives are also evident. This article comprehensively establishes the links and roles played by WCUs in fostering sustainability. It aids potential WCUs in Africa to understand and adopt sustainable initiatives within different and dynamic institutional contexts.

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