Developing an integrated participatory methodology framework for campus sustainability assessment tools (CSAT): A case study of a sino-foreign university in China

Ayotunde Dawodu, Chenggang Guo, Tong Zou, Felix Osebor, Jiahui Tang, Chong Liu, Chengyang Wu, Jumoke Oladejo

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The issue of sustainable development is a topic that needs to be studied, analysed, and addressed by higher education institutions. Campus sustainability assessment tools (CSATs) are commonly adopted internationally to evaluate and improve measures utilised for the development outcomes of universities. Whilst some Chinese universities have taken positive steps towards attaining sustainability in their operations, teaching and/or research, and China has come up with its own evaluation criteria for green universities, majority of their approach still have shortcomings, such as lack of multiple stakeholder involvement and a one size fits all approach to campus sustainability strategy. Thus, the aim of this paper is to investigate two core methodological issues (top-down and non-transparent approaches and the limited consideration of context-specific issues) that impact the efficacy of CSATs in order to optimize the selection process for indicators and enhance the development CSAT for Chinese campuses and other campuses globally. Based on the widely used assessment tools (both campus and neighbourhood) in foreign countries, 147 corresponding assessment indicators in 16 domains were collated through qualitative review of existing assessment tools and the questionnaire-based analysis through the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). The case study campus selected was the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. The indicators to be investigated were selected based on frequency and distributed in the form of a questionnaire to the staff and students after a comprehensive stakeholder survey analysis. The staff and students were used to illustrate the high interest and high influence dynamic versus the high interest and low influence dynamic. This research was conducted to gain insight towards developing an integrated, inclusive, and context relevant CSAT. Furthermore, a new framework was developed for Chinese Campus sustainable assessment planning, using the University of Nottingham Ningbo as Case study. This framework provides step by step phases for CSAT development that includes the database phase, minimization phase, stakeholder phase and integration and implementation phase. Within these phases, factors that determined the success and failure were discussed such as issues of acceptability versus pragmatism, willingness of stakeholders to participate, weighing of indicators, stakeholder analysis and redistribution of power for the less influential. This led to the sample selection of indicators, which serve as validation of impact of this integrated methodological process. The final recommendation given is that all regions should create and provide avenues for tailored processes for the selection, weighting and criteria development of sustainability indicators and assessment tools. This needs to promote inclusivity, transparency and contextual relevance in decision making, which should be the main considerations for any truly sustainable framework. In addition, as a final measure to ensure methods such as CSATs are implemented in wider China and globally, this study identified the need for coordination, support, and participation of competent and sustainability driven leaders, government parastatals (National and provincial level), pilot demonstration, as well as data transparency throughout related campus departments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100827
JournalProgress in Planning
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Analytic hierarchy process (AHP)
  • Campus sustainability assessment tool
  • Campus sustainable development
  • Higher education institutions
  • Top-down and bottom-up approaches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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