Are we educating engineers for sustainability? Comparison between obtained competences and Swedish industry's needs
Journal article, 2012

Purpose – The aim of this study is to contribute to the quality improvement and long-term strategic development of education for sustainable development (ESD) in engineering education curricula. Design/methodology/approach – The content in 70 courses in environment and SD were characterized and quantified using course document text analysis. Additionally, two questionnaires were sent to students and alumni at Chalmers, and interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with representatives from 16 Swedish companies and five organizations. Findings – It was found that industry demands a broader range of competences in SD amongst engineers in general than what is currently provided. In total, 35 per cent of alumni claim they encounter sustainability issues from sometimes to daily in their work. However, only half of them believe they possess enough competences to make decisions from a sustainability perspective. Quantity, coverage and the level of integration in the educational programme all appear to be important for the students' perceived competences on SD and for the importance that they put on achieving SD. Originality/value – Earlier research has reported on how to further develop the idea and design of ESD and on competence needs in general. Few attempts have been made to assess industry's needs of competences in SD. This paper sheds light on how engineering universities educate for SD and benchmarks this to industry's needs in an exploratory case study, using Chalmers as an example.


Higher education

Sustainable development



Engineering education

Swedish industry


Andreas Hanning

Chalmers, Shipping and Marine Technology, Division of Maritime Operations

Anna Priem Abelsson

Ulrika Lundqvist

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Magdalena Svanström

Chalmers, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Chemical Environmental Science

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

1467-6370 (ISSN)

Vol. 13 3 305-320

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work



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