Global consciousness and pillars of sustainable development: A study on self-perceptions of the first-year university students

Tamara SAVELYEVA, William Geoffrey DOUGLAS

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to provide data on the self-perceived state of sustainability consciousness of first-year Hong Kong students. Design/methodology/approach: Within a mixed-method research design framework, the authors conducted 787 questionnaires and collected 989 reflective narratives of first-year students of a university in Hong Kong, who were enrolled in the General Education course. Findings: Attributed to students’ immersion in compulsory sustainability education modules within liberal studies programs in secondary through higher education (HE), the quantitative results revealed an increase in the self-perceived knowledge and behavioral aspects of sustainability consciousness of Hong Kong students and their low engagement in sustainability-related civic, campus or action groups. However, qualitative results revealed three aspects of the students’ sustainability consciousness: intentionality to make a difference; engagement with complex questions about identity, society and nature; and eschatological perspectives, which included imaginative, future-oriented and action-oriented approaches to critical reflection, supported by the rhetoric of hope, promises and commitment for better future. Originality/value: The study provides insights into the challenge of implementation of the United Nations-based sustainable development model in the Hong Kong educational system through the formal liberal studies curriculum. It advances the field by constructing a momentum for conceptual changes in sustainability education research toward design of the non-linear and culturally sensitive frameworks for sustainability implementation in HE. This allows to utilize universities’ unique capacities for fostering students’ sustainability consciousness in a continuous and systemic way. Copyright © 2017 Tamara Savelyeva and William Douglas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-241
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017



Savelyeva, T., & Douglas, W. (2017). Global consciousness and pillars of sustainable development: A study on self-perceptions of the first-year university students. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 18(2), 218-241.


  • Asia-Pacific
  • Sustainability curriculum
  • Eschatological perspective
  • Global higher education
  • Sustainability consciousness
  • Sustainable development model