The transition of higher education institutions (HEIs) from a traditional role to a modern one has focused on the advancement of the innovative idea of sustainability in their functions. HEIs played their traditional role in promoting the disciplinary nature of teaching and research. The modern role of HEIs makes demands for not only knowledge to be promoted but also for the gap between academia and society to be bridged. This modern role is a fundamental principle of sustainability. Lack of understanding of the concept of sustainability causes hurdles in taking sustainable initiatives. The status of sustainability in Pakistan is in its infancy phase and poorly documented. It is due to the lack of conceptualizing sustainability that is underestimated and unexplored. This study explored how Pakistan Public Universities’ (PPUs) academic administrators conceptualize sustainability, universities’ role in promoting sustainability, and factors supporting or hindering sustainability. A qualitative approach was employed to conduct this study. Data were generated using semi-structured interviews and document analysis. A conceptual framework, comprising the role of universities, barriers and favourable factors to sustainability was used to analyse the data. Interviewees’ responses and documents were meticulously transcribed, read, re-read and coded and findings were presented in thematic form based on the conceptual framework. The study found that academic administrators were aware of the subject of sustainability but faced more constraints than incentives to promote sustainability. The study also found that PPUs are transforming partially into modern role. The findings indicated lack of interest and commitment from top leadership in engaging stakeholders and creating supportive environment to understand sustainability. The findings point out a serious need for concerted efforts from relevant stakeholders to comprehend and embed sustainability in HEIs functions.


Sustainability, Barriers to Sustainability, Conceptual Framework, Thematic Analysis, Academic Administrators, Sustainability Conceptualization

Author Bio(s)

Syed Kaleem Ullah Shah Bukhari completed his PhD in Educational Management and Administration from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia. His PhD. thesis was on Management and Administration for Sustainability for Pakistani Higher Education Institutions. Currently at University of the Punjab, Lahore, Syed Kaleem Ullah Shah Bukhari is working as Assistant Professor. His interests are in higher education sector, particularly in the areas of sustainability, sustainable education, and environmental education. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: adnan_kalim@yahoo.com.

Professor Dr Hamdan Said obtained his bachelor’s degree of Science with Education from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (Malaysia), master’s degree from the Queensland University of Technology (Australia), and doctoral degree from Idaho State University, USA majoring in Educational Leadership. Besides teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses, he is also an active researcher, supervisor, and consultant. To date he has conducted more than 30 research projects. He supervises PhD and Master students in the area of higher education. He has presented papers at more than 30 conferences overseas as a keynote speaker. He has been appointed as a visiting professor to five universities in Indonesia. He enjoys writing and to date has published more than 70 journal articles and is a board member of three international journals. He is a member of auditors for Malaysian Quality Assurance (MQA) and has been appointed as an international auditor to Bangladesh higher education since 2016.

Associate Professor Dr Faizah Mohamad Nor graduated from University of Malaya with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. She later pursued a Diploma in Education (T.E.S.L/ Math) from University of Malaya, M. Sc (T.E.S.P.) from Aston University (U.K.) and a PhD in T.E.S.L. (Universiti Teknologi Malaysia). Her publications are mainly in the area of Education and second language teaching and learning. She has co-authored two books, English for Career Search and English for Professional Communication, edited five books including three books on language learning, and published more than 50 book chapters, journal articles and conference proceedings. She has headed several national and university-level research projects that investigated effective English language teaching practices in Malaysia, researched on the aspect of motivation to read in English among Malaysian learners, the use of English Language at the workplace among professionals in Malaysian companies, and the aspect of learner autonomy in English language learning. The study on “English for Air Traffic Controllers: An Ethnographic Study of the Target Discourse Community,” conducted with her research team won the Merit Award in the Congress of Science and Technology. She sits in the editorial board of four journals and is also an academic consultant for an academic programme offered by a higher learning institution in Malaysia.

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