Making a positive contribution to the future

In a recent article for DUZ Wissenschaft & Management, Jens Engelke (CHE Consult) and Mathias Falkenstein (XOLAS) argue: Higher Education Institutions¬† can open up new opportunities if they orient themselves towards students’ sustainability expectations.

In a study conducted by the “Positive Impact Rating Association”, nearly 3,000 students from business schools around the world were surveyed. The results were presented during the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2020. They show: The students surveyed expect their Higher Education Institutions to make a positive contribution to a sustainable social transformation process. On the other hand, non-university activities are expected, such as intensified cooperation with primarily local actors from society and business.

In their article, the authors explain how Higher Education Institutions can meet such expectations of students and which mistakes should be avoided. It is important not to misuse the topic of sustainability in the sense of superficial marketing interests. According to the authors, “prospective students can very well determine […] with what stringency and consistency a Higher Education Institution operationalises its further development. Key players in society also expect a university to offer solutions to societal challenges and thus to provide added value for society.”

University management in particular is called upon to provide orientation through the implementation of strategic guidelines. One way in which this can be achieved is through Positive Impact Development. The approach supports the Higher Education Institution in identifying the many facets of sustainability – from resource-efficient building use to third mission – and subsequently developing them in a concrete and measurable way.

The authors further argue that by anticipating and, if possible, fulfilling students’ (sustainability) expectations, attractiveness and retention can be generated. As a result, the probability of attracting additional students increases. In addition, alumni management could also be promoted considerably.


The original articel was published in: DUZ Wissenschaft & Management, 03/2021,