As reflected in the sustainable development goals (SDGs), sustainable development is a multi-dimensional concept integrating political, ethical, economic, and other factors. Reports from the United Nations (UN) Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) suggest that universities are more engaged with sustainable development in higher education.
Despite promising signals about student awareness of sustainable development, survey studies suggest student engagement and knowledge is limited. Previous studies have tended to focus on undergraduates and examine basic attitudes to triple bottom line issues.
This study examined knowledge and attitudes of postgraduate U.K. students enrolled in one-year taught sustainability degrees on the multi-dimensional issues of sustainable development. This study piloted a 39-question 7-point Likert scale survey with a cohort of U.K.-taught postgraduate (MSc, MPhil) students (n = 121, Cronbach’s Alpha 0.796, n = 39 questions). The study found this cohort able to recognize and respond to the multiple challenges of strong and weak sustainable development issues rather than exhibiting knowledge gaps previously reported. Results and qualitative comments from the survey suggest, however, that students resist the idea of strong interventions in social, political, and economic life.