Circular economy in university education


The circular economy offers a new model of economic development, more sustainable for the planet, consisting of a production and consumption model that involves sharing, renting, reusing, repairing, renewing and recycling existing materials and products as many times as possible to create added value and lengthen its life cycle.

To understand, accelerate and promote such a model, education is essential. However, the study of the circular economy is still not part of most curricula in the Spanish university system.

In recent years, postgraduate initiatives have appeared, but the circular economy as a subject does not predominate in the teaching guides of the subjects of the degrees.

For this reason we have launched a teaching innovation project in university education that promotes the study of the circular economy.

Seminars in degree subjects

During the last quarter of 2021, we have given six seminars of two hours each, on circular economy in different subjects of the Business Administration and Management degrees at Loyola University in Seville and at the University of Cádiz.

This initiative is part of the project “Mainstreaming the Social and Solidarity Economy in the Business Administration and Management degrees of Andalusian universities for the contribution to the sustainable development objectives 8 and 12”, coordinated by the Area of ​​Cooperation and Solidarity of the University of Cordoba .

The general objective is “to achieve regulated education and university research in Andalusia that contributes to the achievement of the objectives and goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda”.

Teaching of the Circular Economy, 2030 Agenda and SDG Seminar at Loyola University.

New approaches and possibilities

The seminars were divided into three parts. A first part to briefly introduce the concept of the 2030 Agenda, and what the sustainable development goals consisted of.

A second, more extensive part, to delve into the concept of circular economy, describing the principles on which it is based, analyzing the benefits it generates and the opportunities it brings, and identifying the people and institutions involved in its development.

New business models that are already being developed from a circular approach are also shown. The objective of presenting practical cases is for students to discover the possibilities that the circular economy can offer from the point of view of sustainable entrepreneurship.

The last part consists of a participatory debate with the students, in which it is discussed how the circular economy contributes to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. In this way, the conclusions of the seminar are obtained. together with the students.

Promising results

Once the sessions are over, we send the students an online evaluation questionnaire, so that they reflect the degree of satisfaction and learning they have achieved through the sessions.

The general assessment of the activity has been very positive by the students of both universities, with an average score of 8.24 points out of 10.

The students affirm that they have a greater interest in and knowledge of the subject once the sessions are over, if we compare it with what they had before, where they barely identified the concept or knew how to describe what this new approach consisted of.

In addition, the students have shown motivation and desire both to deepen their knowledge of the circular economy, and to apply this approach to their professional, academic or daily life.

The university teaching of the circular economy is, therefore, a great opportunity to show students that a more sustainable economic development with the planet is possible.

In the same way, if through university education alternative development models are proposed and in line with the objectives of sustainable development, compliance with the 2030 Agenda is favored.

Author Bio: Maria del Mar Borrego Marin is Professor and Postdoctoral Researcher, Applied Economics at the University of Seville