Building sustainable societies through purpose‐driven universities: A case study from ashoka university (India)

Anirban Chakraborty, Sumit Kumar, L. S. Shashidhara, Anjali Taneja

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8 Citations (SciVal)


Sustainable Development (SD) is the universal essentiality of present times, and universities have a critical role in implementing this initiative through their functioning, policies and prac-tices. To integrate SD goals, universities should have a global outlook that is still locally rooted in its strategies. In the last decade, various theories and recommendations have been proposed and adopted globally for integrating sustainability in higher education systems. In India, environmental education has been mandated at all formal levels in the education system. Still, there is a strong argument that it is not simply a matter of overhauling syllabi and curricula. Instead, universities should be incorporating SD goals into their research and their own operations. Our study aims to investigate the sustainability model of Ashoka University (India) that approaches its commitment through sustainability‐focused courses, research, and operations. This study involves an in‐depth literature review and uses an established framework to assess the condition of the university towards sustainability issues. Our case study employed observations, data collections, document re-views, and interactions with different stakeholders. The study concludes that the university is mostly in adherence with the framework at this stage. Critical areas of future development within the framework are proposed considering the global context. This research serves as an entry point for evaluating sustainability issues of the Indian higher education system, and hopes to motivate higher education communities to do further research to improve their sustainability performance and their role as agents of change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7423
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Public participation and social engagement cannot be successfully carried out by a university unless actively supported by scholarships and grants [85]. Our findings con‐ firm that AU runs scholarship programmes to ensure quality education accessible to de‐ serving students, irrespective of their socio‐economic backgrounds, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or disability. It offers merit scholarships to deserving students and need‐ based aid, including fee waivers, ranging from 25% on tuition to 100% on all expenses. The financial reports suggested that AU has provided need‐based financial aid of USD 34.2 million to over 3000 students in the last ten years. In 2020‐21, nearly USD 8.4 million in aid has already been granted by the university and over 51% of undergraduate students at Ashoka are studying on financial assistance. The university also has tie‐ups with finan‐ cial institutions that provide education loans at affordable rates without any collateral. It actively reaches out to low‐income schools and Non‐Government Organisations in remote areas of the country to admit students. The university offers care for students with learning disabilities or psychological sup‐ port through special centres such as the Office of Learning Support (OLS) or the Ashoka Centre for Well Being (ACWB). OLS acts as a central resource centre on specific‐needs‐ related information and services for the university and promotes collaborative approaches to implement inclusion policies. The annual reports of the OSL suggest that it has sup‐ ported students with visual/hearing impairment, ASD, and cerebral palsy over the years. On the other hand, the ACWB serves as a safe space to offer free and confidential coun‐ selling support to the entire Ashoka community for the healthy development of mind, body and soul. The team of counsellors, professionals and volunteers of ACWB offers specialised services to help students build emotional resources and develop better‐coping strategies. These are unique initiatives in the Indian context, and AU should popularise


  • Indian higher education
  • Sustainability approaches
  • Sustainability model
  • Sustainable development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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