In the preparation of the SDG-iLevel project the partners conducted a study of research and policy papers to validate the basic assumptions of the project. The following considerations and needs were identified.
- There is a need for improved mental well-being of university staff
The EU's Health at a Glance: "Europe 2020" report recognises that COVID-19 has increased the risk of developing various mental health conditions. A survey by Course Hero of 570 full-time and part-time university faculty members shows that 74 % of them reported stress from the transition to online teaching; the study also found that stress levels are highest now during the pandemic, and 3/4 of them see the current state as the permanent new normal.
- Universities need new ways to drive job satisfaction
Suggested ways to improve job satisfaction among academic staff include increased compensation, curriculum or workload changes, and new technologies. However, these improvements come at a high organisational or financial cost. Meanwhile, the positive effect of mindfulness, awareness and mental well-being on job satisfaction is well established in the academic literature (Andrews et al., 2014).
- Individual SDG contributions are not well visible and recognized
We found no high-level policy documents that explicitly discuss individual contributions of university staff to the SDGs. Most sources focus on institutional contributions. The UN's Getting Started with the SDGs in Universities has a section "Mapping University Contributions to the SDGs." The EUA's programme document "Universities Without Borders 2020" also discusses only the role of universities. None of these and many other policy documents addresses individual contributions.
- Nudging is growing in popularity because it works
According to a review of 100 academic publications on nudging (Hummel & Maedche, 2019), 62 % of nudging interventions are statistically significant. A growing body of nudging research now focuses on the use of nudges for sustainability, such as the concept of "green nudges" (Schubert, 2016).
- Digital innovation is one of the most important policy goals
In Europe and around the world, digital transformation is an urgent policy objective. The Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027), the renewed EU Agenda for Higher Education (2017), and other documents promote this goal at the highest EU level.
- Existing SDG-focused individual resources
We also looked at available European SDG-themed online learning and training resources. None of these initiatives is explicitly designed to promote or leverage individual SDG contributions from university staff.