Sustainable development

Purpose – To date, little attention has been given to the circumstances in which the process of developing key competencies for sustainable development may take place. The purpose of this paper is to consider, the possibilities both of formal and informal learning and their relationship to competence development within higher education.

Design/methodology/approach – An explorative, qualitative study based on focus groups was designed using different groups from formal and informal learning settings.
Findings – The development of key competencies is based both on cognitive and non-cognitive dispositions and asks for multiple contexts. Through combining formal and informal learning settings within higher education – as part of a new learning culture – a variety of contexts can be given and competence development can be enhanced.
Research limitations/implications – While aspects of both formal and informal learning settings could be identified, the interdependencies between them remain elusive.
Practical implications – Based on the findings, some main aspects for acquiring competencies can be pointed out that may be crucial in higher education settings.
Originality/value – The paper analyses the implications for both formal and informal learning settings of new ways of developing key competencies within higher education. Particular attention is given to interdisciplinarity and students’ self-responsibility.

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