Universities play a crucial role in the short-term implementation of education for sustainable development goals (SDGs). The fourth SDG aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Indeed, SDG4 is not intended as a goal in itself, but rather, a tool to achieve different goals and explore the best practices, via deductive-theoretical or inductive-experiential methods. Still, current literature on education for SDGs does not always consider the infrastructural and practical factors affecting the success or the failure of the practices mentioned above. The main purpose of this paper is to organize and describe a set of ongoing education for sustainability strategies that took place from 2016 to 2019 in Italian universities. Eighteen best practices have been collected after a national call by the Italian Network of Sustainable Universities (RUS), that aimed to map the current landscape of SDGs-related actions. Data have been analyzed based on the qualitative description provided by each university, according to four criteria: trigger, course type, approach (top-down/bottom-up) and declared mission. Results are depicted as a map of the current Italian higher education system, where a predominant mission (teaching) and a prevalent driver (top-down) have been found as the frequent features of SDGs educational initiatives. Further developments highlight the value of this first country-wide mapping of the Italian Higher Education Institutions implementing SDGs in their activities, that can avoid the isolation of individual experiences and, most importantly, can suggest some comparability and transferability criteria for similar cases.
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