Journal of Circular Economy

An applied scholarly journal on circular economy

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What is the University For These Days? Rethinking the Foundations of the ‘Circular Campus’

Kersty Hobson, Megan O'Byrne


In line with growing concerns about the negative environmental impacts of Higher Education Institutions’ (HEIs) core activities, Circular Economy (CE) interventions are appearing across campuses, focussing on e.g., curriculum content, operations, and resource-use, and/or research. In parallel, researchers are increasingly exploring the aims, barriers, processes, and outcomes of attempts to make HEIs more ‘circular’. However, this growing literature often fails to connect with broader critiques of prevailing CE goals and processes, to consider the types of CE being enacted and if other forms of CE are possible and desirable in HEIs. In response, this paper discusses data from research interviews undertaken as part of a project that explored on-campus CE initiatives at a sample of UK and Irish HEIs. It reports on key interview themes, which are HEIs as spaces of over-consumption; as testbeds for new CE practices: and as sites of CE degrowth: and makes the case for HEIs to ask fundamental, radical questions—i.e., ‘what is the university for these days?’—as a pivotal part of CE projects and systems across HEIs.


Circular Economy, Circular Campus, Higher Education Institutions


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