Purpose – The paper outlines the current status of the implementation of sustainability practices in the context of Italian public universities, highlighting the strengths and gaps. Design/methodology/approach – Based on a qualitative approach, an explorative study design has been outlined using the model of Glavič and Lukman (2007) focusing on the Deming Cycle. The Plan-Do-Check-Act component of the model were used as a framework for collecting and analyzing data from the official websites and other related web pages of Italian universities. Findings – The results of our exploratory study allow us to depict a university system addressing the challenge posed by international agendas in a fragmented way, even if many universities are showing a strong commitment to the sustainability challenge. Sustainability is mainly detected at the “Do” dimension, when referring to training programs and research projects associated to the sustainability issue. Research limitations/implications – Limitations of the data collection method are addressed when the timeliness of update of web sources and the different emphases that universities can put on internet disclosure are considered. However, the study contributes to the debate on sustainability by providing findings at a national level, which were derived from the official websites of Italian public universities. Furthermore, the study could have implications for policy makers and universities’ decision makers. Practical implications – The study points out the importance of managing the sustainability process in all its phases (planning, activities, monitoring, further actions), and highlights the elements that are relevant for measuring and monitoring the process of implementation of sustainability in the specific context of higher education. Originality/value – This study explores sustainability issue in the Italian university system, and it is based on a web-based method of data collection, whereas other contributions are based on case studies. Article type – Research paper
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