Exploring sustainable student travel behaviour in The Netherlands: balancing online and on-campus learning

Marieke Versteijlen*, Bert van Wee, Arjen Wals

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
68 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Daily commuting trips of higher education (HE) students account for a large proportion of the carbon footprint of a HE institution. Considerations of students underlying their choice of travel mode and their decision to make the trip to campus or to study online are explored as a necessary first step for finding an optimal balance between online and on-campus learning from both a sustainability and an educational perspective. Design/methodology/approach: Focus group conversations were held with student groups from different study programmes of a university of applied sciences in the Netherlands. Findings: Dutch students’ travel mode choices seem to depend on measures regulating travel demand such as a free public transport card and high parking costs. The findings indicate that students make reasoned choices about making a trip to campus. These choices depend on considerations about their schedule, type, lecturer and content of a course, social norms and their own perceived behavioural control. Alternative online options can provide students with more flexibility to make choices adapted to their needs. Social implications: While these findings are useful for sustainable and educational reasons, they also seem helpful in times of COVID-19 which calls for a re-design of curricula to allow for blended forms of online and on-campus learning. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this paper is one of the first studies looking at students’ considerations when deciding whether to travel to campus to learn or stay at home learning online.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-166
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Carbon footprint
  • Class attendance
  • Higher education
  • On-campus learning
  • Online learning
  • Student travel behaviour


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