4.1. Scientific Production and Subject Area
shows the evolution of the 1590 articles identified in the search during the period from 1986 to 2019. This result illustrates the exponential trend in the publication of works on the management of DT in HE in the last 34 years. It is observed that, during the last five years, 2015–2019, 863 articles have been published, corresponding to 54.28% of the total, demonstrating the growing interest and relevance of this theme. Thus, in the first year analyzed, 1986, two articles were published, while in 2019, the last year studied, a volume of 248 articles was published (15.60%).
These articles are mainly written in English (95.16%), as is common in searches in the Scopus database [91
]. In addition, articles have been published in other languages, such as Spanish (1.70%), Russian (1.13%), or Portuguese (1.01%), while the rest do not exceed 1% of the total contributions.
In the period analyzed, 1986–2019, the exponential trend line shows its goodness of fit with an R2 value of 0.9417. The curve means that the number of articles on the subject studied grows faster and faster over time. On the other hand, in the subperiod from 1995 to 2015, the trend line is also goodness of fit, with an R2 value of 0.9261, and demonstrates the good fit of the line to the data. Thus, the linear trend line indicates that the number of items has increased at a constant rate in this period.
Both trend lines, linear and exponential, intersect at two points: first, in 1995, which corresponds to the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, which called for ensuring that people living in poverty had access to production resources (credit, land, education and training, technology, knowledge, and information), as well as public services and participation in decision-making on a regulatory environment that would allow them to take advantage of economic and employment opportunities [92
]; secondly, in 2015, coinciding with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations General Assembly [93
], where the exponential nature is more pronounced in relation to the increase in scientific production on this subject. The goals related to quality education and the promotion of sustained economic growth promoted by the SDGs have meant that the international nature of publications increases.
During the time horizon analyzed, 1986–2019, works related to the sustainable management of DT in HE in various areas of knowledge have been found. According to the Scopus database, the 1590 articles analyzed are classified into 25 thematic areas. It is necessary to clarify that the same article can be classified in more than one category, subject to the interest of the author and the publisher.
presents how the thematic classification of articles has evolved this research topic. The Social Sciences category is the one highlighted during the entire period studied, with 24.88% of the articles published on the DT of university education. Next, the Environmental Science category follows, with 16.66%. Engineering (12.68%), Business, Management, and Accounting (8.29%), and Energy (7.69%) are the following categories in order of importance. Thus, the five most important categories represent 70.20% of the articles published on this research area from 1986 to 2019. In addition to the indicated categories, including Agricultural and Biological Sciences (4.88%), Computer Science (4.55%), Medicine (3.11%), Economics, Econometrics, and Finance (2.84%), and Arts and Humanities (2.31%), the rest of the thematic areas do not reach 2% of published studies.
Most of the works in this research topic are associated with the Social Sciences category. Within this, the articles are included in their different disciplines (anthropology, sociology, geography, history, law, political science, economics, communication, pedagogy, and psychology) [94
], that study, among other specific objectives, the organization of the HEIs, or the relationships between different stakeholders in a university that are affected by DT [96
]. The Environmental Science category deals with issues about the environmental opportunity or challenge of digital technology, sustainability in the digital age, or the revolution of DT in organizations in relation to productivity and efficiency [98
]. Another set of categories incorporates fewer studied subjects, such as Decision Science, which addresses the decisions taken within the limits of an organization, or as Biochemistry, Genetics, and Molecular Biology, which must begin to take center stage in this subject, since the results of their studies could be applicable in various areas of research [99
Articles have been published in 850 journals from 1986 to 2019. Regarding the most productive scientific journals in this area, Sustainability (79, 4.97%) stands out, followed by the Journal of Industrial Ecology (66, 4.15%), International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education (51, 3.21%), and Journal of Cleaner Production (47, 2.96%). The rest of the journals have less than 1%.
4.2. Publications by Author, Institution, and Country
The most productive authors in the sustainable management of DT in HE were Mulder, K.F. (The Hague University of Applied Sciences, The Hague, The Netherlands), Cappellaro, F. (ENEA Centro Ricerche Casaccia, Rome, Italy), Schandl, H.U. (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Canberra, Australia), and Yarime, M. (University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan). Among the ten most productive authors, six are of European origin, with a Dutchman (Mulder, K.F.), three Italians (Cappellaro, F.; Cotana, F.; Cumo, F.), an Austrian (Eisenmenger, N.), and a Spaniard (Ferrer-Balas, D.).
shows the main keywords associated with the ten most productive authors in this area of research. The keywords are varied, although those that relate to the SDG and the exploitation of a certain resource below its renewal limit stand out. In this case, “sustainability, “sustainable development”, “industrial ecology”, “developing countries”, “bioconversion”, “co-design”, or “co-creation” stand out. A second group of keywords is in line with education, such as “active learning”, “higher education”, “pedagogy”, “active citizenship”, or “engineering education”. The term “barriers to innovation and sustainability in universities” stands out, linking the two previous groups. Finally, in a third group more numerous can be classified terms related to digital transformation and technology, such as “appropriate technologies”, “transformation”, “material flow”, “solar energy”, “alternative energy”, “acoustic performance”, “advanced technology”, “digital storage”, and “materials flow analysis (MFA)”.
The literature indicates that, based on the main keywords of the authors, society and the business world have accepted disruption and DT [101
]. Different investigations point out that this began during the Great Moderation, a period that in economics refers to the reduction of the volatility of fluctuations in the economic cycle in developed nations since the mid-1980s, compared to previous periods [103
shows the network or map of cooperation between authors who have published on the sustainability of DT in HE, based on co-authorship. The color of each cluster refers to the group of authors in the production of articles, while the size of the circle is interpreted according to the number of contributions of the author. Thus, the authors are associated in five groups.
The red group (cluster 1) presents the collaboration between Chen, L., Li, F., Li, Z., Liu, L., Shen, Z., Wang, H., Wang, L., Wang, M., Wang, X., Wang, Y., Wu, J., and Zhou, Y. Cluster 2 (green color) groups Kim, J., Li, L., Lu, Y., Scholz, R.W., Suh, S., and Yang, Y. Cluster 3 (blue color) is composed by the authors Li, H., Li. W., Liu, J., Qi, Y., and Wang, R. Group 4 (yellow) groups Wang, F., Wang, Q., Zhang, X., and Zhou, C. Finally, the fifth cluster (pink color) is made up of Li, J. and Liu, Y.
The association between authors of Asian origin is related to the strategy initiated in recent years by China, with the decision to adopt measures in order to transform information, communications, and technology as the country’s central industry [106
]. The goal of this conversion is to end the country’s industrial and technological dependence with foreign companies, and become a world leader in information, communications, and culture as technological solutions to make pragmatic compensation between economic growth and social sustainability [108
The total sample of articles has been written in 3668 international affiliations. The institutions with the largest number of articles on the subject of study were Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands), Arizona State University (USA), Purdue University (USA), University of Technology Sydney (Australia), and Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Spain). Among the top ten most productive institutions, four are American, four of European origin (The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK), one Australian, and one Chinese.
The global connection is a key factor in DT. Thus, research is emerging to ensure energy efficiency and the responsible use of natural resources [110
]. Therefore, today’s economies need flexible systems that allow them to evolve quickly and efficiently, in line with the speed of technology [112
shows the main keywords of the most productive institutions on the sustainable management of DT in HE, during the period analyzed, 1986–2019. Among the most used keywords, the ones related to the management of the resources associated with DT in HE stand out, without compromising the capacities of future generations, that is, “sustainable development” and “sustainability”.
shows the collaboration network between the main institutions that have published on the sustainable management of DT in HE, based on co-authorship. Thus, colors represent the working groups in the publication of articles, while the size of each circle indicates the number of articles of each affiliation. They have been grouped into four clusters. The red group (cluster 1) includes, among other institutions, the Allegheny College, Department of Environmental Science and Sustainability (Meadville, PA, USA); Universiti Sains Malaysia, Center for Global Sustainability Studies (CGSS) and School of Biological Sciences (Penang, Malaysia); University of Bologna, Department of Architecture (Bologna, Italy); Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, European School of Sustainability Science and Research (ESSSR) (Hamburg, Germany); Institut Mines-Télécom Business School (Évry, France). Cluster 2 (green) is composed, among others, of Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia); Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester, UK); Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (Curitiba, Brazil); Positive University (Curitiba, Brazil); International Center for Thriving—University of Chester (Chester, UK). Cluster 3 (blue) is made up, among other affiliations, by the School of Environment Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada); Universiti Malaysia Sabah (Sabah, Malaysia); University of Beira Interior (Covilhã, Portugal); or Thaksin University (Songkhla, Thailand). Finally, group 4 (yellow) includes the University of Belgrade (Belgrade, Serbia), University of Latvia (Riga, Latvia), University of Passo Fundo (Passo Fundo, Brazil); University of Verona (Verona, Italy), and Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship (Karnataka, India).
The link between education and SDG 4 relates the role of technological advances in HE. Likewise, sustainable development contributes to online education, so that digitalization of education means education of global quality [114
The total sample of articles was written in 105 different countries. The country with the highest number of articles published on the subject of study is USA (23.52%), followed by the UK (10.13%), Australia (6.86%), China (5.22%), Italy (4.97%), The Netherlands (4.59%), Germany (4.53%), and Spain (4.09%). The rest of the countries do not exceed 4% of the total published articles.
shows the collaboration network between the main countries based on the co-authorship of their authors during the last 34 years. The distinct colors represent the different clusters formed by the groups of countries, while the size of the circle varies depending on the number of items in each country. Thus, the larger the circle of each country, the greater the number of articles whose authorship it represents. Countries with contributions in this area of research have been grouped into five clusters.
Thus, the interest generated by the knowledge economy has implications in education as conclusive of economic growth. The ability of countries to both compete and cooperate in the global economy and respond to existing and potential challenges depends on the ability of their educational systems to develop basic skills, which enable greater learning [117
], and this is reflected in the research collaboration.
shows the five clusters on the thematic area of sustainable management of DT in HE, derived from cooperation between countries based on co-authorship and named by the country with the largest number of published articles.
Thus, cluster 1 (red) is the most numerous and includes 31 countries, headed by Australia, and is associated, among others, with China, Spain, Italy, or Germany. Group 2 (green) is led by the UK, and shares articles, mainly, with France, Japan, or Taiwan. Meanwhile, cluster 3 (blue) leads it, in this case, The Netherlands, and collaborates in the production of articles on the research area of the study, with Canada, Switzerland, or Sweden. Cluster 4 (yellow) is led by the USA, the country with the most publications, and forms its cooperation network, among other countries, with Malaysia, Ireland, Qatar, or South Africa. Finally, the fifth cluster (pink) is the least numerous and is led by Brazil and includes in its network mainly South American and Central American countries, such as Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, or Panama.
In this research theme, it is observed that scientific collaboration between these countries does not respond to reliable and elementary relations of a political, cultural, economic, legal, or technological, and digital development type, but rather, they respond to an institutional or related alliances globalization process [119
Along these lines, the European Commission, through the Digital Education Action Plan, considers a series of actions in order to promote the use of technology and the development of digital skills in education in the European Union member countries [121
]. Thus, in relation to the open and collaborative nature of the digital society, new studies emerge about the inclusion of digital technology in HE. That is, digital education allows the student to have a shared learning through the digital platforms [122
4.3. Keyword Analysis
shows the network of keywords on the sustainable management of DT in HE, based on co-occurrence. The analysis of the keywords with which scientific documents are classified is one of the main contributions of the bibliometric analysis [124
]. The main keywords used in the articles of the research area are “sustainability”, “sustainable development”, “higher education”, “innovation”, “technology”, “environmental technology”, “technological development”, and “environmental management”.
Likewise, six main groups of keywords were detected when conducting a co-occurrence analysis of the articles published with this theme. Each cluster is composed of numerous related and dependent elements.
Cluster 1 (red) is the most numerous and groups 33.89% of the analyzed keywords. The main keyword, due to its greater number of co-occurrences, is “environmental impact”, which is associated with “biotechnology”, “carbon emission”, “carbon footprint”, “circular economy”, “cleaner production”, “climate”, “economic growth”, “innovate technology”, “environmental benefit”, “industrial ecology”, “social impact”, “supply chain”, “sustainability technology”, “technological advance”, “MFA” (Multi-factor authentication), or “university campus”.
Cluster 2 (green) brings together 24.21% of the keywords. In this group, the main keyword is “education”, which is linked to terms such as “active learning”, “technology education”, “app (application)”, “continuous improvement”, “pedagogy”, “cultural heritage”, “distance education”, “e-learning”, “m-learning”, “ecological footprint”, “educational institution”, “future generation”, “ICM” (Information Classification and Management), “ISO” (International Organization for Standardization), “Massive open online course” (MOOC), “nanotechnology”, “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), or “web”.
Group 3 (violet) concentrates 17.26% of the keywords on the DT of HE. The main keyword is “ICT” (Information and Communications Technology) and is associated, among others, with “academic staff”, “Big Data”, “bioinformatics”, “data analysis”, “data collection”, “digital technology”, “Protocol”, “HTA” (Health Technology Assessment), “knowledge production”, or “mobile phone”.
Cluster 4 (yellow) gathers 10.74% of the keywords. Its main keyword is “library” and is associated with terms such as “accessibility”, “cloud”, “computing”, “creativity”, “digital library”, “ESD” (Education for Sustainable Development), “HEI” (Higher Education Institution), “institutional repository”, “RCE” (Regional Centre of Expertise), “SDG” (Sustainable Development Goal), “sustainable development” or “sustainable practice”.
Cluster 5 (pink) groups 7.37% of the keywords on the subject of study. The main keyword is “computer” and is associated with “competitive advantage”, “energy performance”, “capability”, “new paradigm”, “research institution”, “simulation”, “resilience”, “SME” (small- and medium-sized enterprise), “smart city”, or “social issue”.
Cluster 6 (blue) is the least numerous and only groups 6.53% of the keywords. In this group the main keyword is “green space” and is associated with “competitiveness”, “ETC” (Education Technology Center), “major challenge”, “global change”, “GIS” (Geographic Information Systems), “information system”, “urgent need”, or “significant change”.
The contributions highlight that digital learning through the strategic and personalized approach has an inclusive impact [126
]. Consequently, new trends in digital education allow students to acquire relevant information related to their specific needs, in addition to collective participation in the digital classroom [128
]. Likewise, digital technology in the education sector multiplies the potential for collective intelligence [129
]. In this sense, this digital stage allows students and teachers to transfer their educational efforts to educational activities and methodologies far from the traditional approach. In this sense, it is necessary to clarify that although the DT has a number of advantages, it also has a negative impact on HE, such as the distraction it can generate in learning or the digitalization of the educational process.
shows the main keywords associated with the six clusters, named by the keyword with the most co-occurrences. The diversification and behavior of the six clusters allows us to deduce how the sustainable management of the DT of HE comprises different topics in the research activity.
The topic of research under study is dynamic and it is observed that the contributions are adapted to its rapid evolution [131
]. In relation to the new lines of research on sustainable management, the keyword “upcycling” has emerged in response to the use of recyclable materials to create objects with a greater value than the initial [132
], and its application in teaching and learning in HE [134
]. In addition, among the concepts that arise associated with the DT of HE, the “digital community” stands out, in relation to groups of individuals and institutions organized virtually around a series of specific interests, whose interactions occur on the Network (discussion forums, email groups, chats, or peer-to-peer systems) [137
]. In parallel, the term “netnography” is incorporated as a research method to analyze what happens in virtual communities [138
shows the evolution of each keyword cluster. This graphic allows us to understand the importance of the main keywords according to the time in which they have arisen. It also indicates that the most pioneering keywords will have influence and will be a reference for the terms that have subsequently emerged. The maturity of each group of words is observed when differentiating the period in which they have been studied. Most of the keywords arose before 2017 and have been a reference for subsequent terms. Among the newest, the term “academic staff” stands out, which has been associated with this theme since 2018 [139
]. This concept is defined by the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 5–6, as the personnel that instructs and researches, including the personnel that has an academic rank with titles such as professor, associate professor, assistant professor, instructor; in addition to the titles of dean, director, associate dean, assistant dean, president, or head of department, if its main activity is instruction or investigation [140
In addition, the term “university involvement” is attached, so that research places value on institutions that adopt methods of participation, and this capacity is related to those that have a high quality strategy, rather than a minimization one, of costs. This term also connects with the “organizational control in university management” [62
In line with the new keywords that are associated with this area of research, it is necessary to point out “blockchain university” [142
]. This gives the blockchain the ability to facilitate the operation of educational platforms where students securely manage the data and content they share [143
]. That is, this technology allows the transfer of digital assets without any intermediary, and some currents guess that it will have an impact similar to that of the Internet [144