Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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University Leadership for Sustainability: an Active Dendritic Framework for Enabling Connection and Collaboration

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posted on 2021-11-08, 01:43 authored by Williams, Pamela Margaret

In a world with increasing environmental and social problems, education is widely accepted as being critical for meeting current and predicted sustainable development issues. This thesis explores possible reasons for the relatively low levels of education-for-sustainability programmes in universities in Aotearoa New Zealand, compared to selected international universities with coherent inter-disciplinary sustainability programmes of learning. The research involved qualitative in-depth interviews with two sub-sets of academic participants teaching in universities, twenty from selected international universities and ten from universities in Aotearoa New Zealand. A grounded theory methodology approach was chosen to analyse the extensive range of qualitative data. Analysis revealed generic essential themes underlying the experiences of the two sets of participants. Key themes included the importance of building connections between distributed sustainability leaders and the need for support from hierarchical university leadership for developing substantive sustainability learning initiatives. A theoretical model is proposed: an active dendritic framework for university leadership for sustainability, for improving collaborative learning within and across disciplinary areas, and building capacity for university-wide learning, leading to establishing coherent sustainability initiatives. Recommendations are offered for improving the uptake of education-forsustainability in universities in Aotearoa New Zealand, based on the research findings and the potential for using the dendritic framework for assisting connection and collaboration between transformational sustainability leaders within the university.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Hipwell, William; Sutherland, Kathryn