Assessment tools’ indicators for sustainability in universities: an analytical overview

Technische Universiteit Delft, King Saud University

Publication Release Date: Jan. 1, 2017
Date Posted: Jan. 13, 2017
Submitted by: Crystal Simmons
Sustainability Topic: Coordination & Planning
Content Type: Publications
Publisher: Emerald Insight
Periodical Name: International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Type: Journal Article



The purpose of this paper is to analyse 12 assessment tools of sustainability in universities and develop the structure and the contents of these tools to be more intelligible. The configuration of the tools reviewed highlight indicators that clearly communicate only the essential information. This paper explores how the theoretical concept of a sustainable university is translated into more measurable variables to support practitioners and academics in assessing sustainability in universities.


The main method for this paper was a desk study approach, which incorporated reviewing research papers, graduate theses, academic books, network platforms and websites.


The tools reviewed share similar traits in terms of criteria, sub-criteria and indicators. Five benchmarks are essential for a holistic framework: management; academia; environment; engagement and innovation.

Practical implications

This research can not only be used to improve existing assessment tools but also as a means to develop new tools tailored for universities that face a variety of challenges and lack the ability to measure their sustainability policies.

Social implications

Making higher education more sustainable through all the criteria mentioned influences students, as well as staff, to maintain a culture of sustainability.


This study contributes to the literature by simplifying and detailing the structure and contents of the tools in a way which indicators are shown, giving a full picture of these tools to enable universities to be more aware of the sustainability issues that affect them.