The scholars of sustainable development and education mostly believe that universities have an underlying role in explaining the movement of human societies towards sustainable development; but universities can play such a role, only if they themselves are sustainable as well. However, the subjects on sustainable development in Iran’s higher education are still in their early stages and face many challenges. Some of these challenges are associated with the lack of engagement of university operators, especially students, in sustainability activities. Value Co-creation process in academic environments might be very effective in overcoming these challenges. Moreover, few studies have been conducted yet on what the relationship between Value Co-creation and sustainability level is and revealing the effective key factors in academic environments. In addition, the causal relationships between the factors influencing Value Co-creation in academic environments have not been taken into consideration by researchers. The overall aim of this study is to explore the effective factors in the engagement of universities and students in Value Co-creation process and to introduce a model for improving the level of Value Co-creation in academic environments. For this purpose, Mixed Method within a sequentialexplanatory design was used. The results obtained from the content analysis showed that a total of eight factors affect the students’ engagement in Value Co-creation process. The factors were classified into two general categories: (1) university-related factors (including university management support for sustainability-oriented activities, sustainability-oriented education, ICT infrastructures, and teaching quality of instructors); and (2) students-related factors (including Sustainability-oriented values, social capital, perceived self-efficacy, and trust in faculty members). The Structural Equation Model (SEM) of the study indicated that sustainability-oriented values, university management support for sustainability-oriented activities, trust in faculty members, social capital, and perceived self-efficacy have a direct and significant impact on the Value Co-creation process in the studied universities. There was also a positive and significant relationship between the engagement of students in Value Co-creation process and university sustainability
UNESCO trainings and the 21st Century Agenda centered on achieving sustainable development during the period from 2005 to 2014 have extended the Green Universities movement and got the universities to create a broader instructional program on a larger scale for sustainable development (Thomas, 2009). However, due to the focus of issues around sustainability on top-down approaches, lack of interest in volunteering to engage in the sustainability process, constraints on the commitment and support of universities for training of Sustainable Development, and lack of cooperation of internal and external operators, these programs are still in their early stages in higher education and face many challenges (FerrerBalas et al., 2009; Leal Filho, 2009; Leal Filho et al., 2015). The researches have recently focused on the Value Co-creation approach to engage operators in organizational activities (CossíoSilva and Revilla-Camacho, 2016; See-To and Ho, 2014). Value Cocreation is a form of a business strategy that emphasizes the establishment and continuity of shared values between organizations and customers (Arnold, 2017). This approach is different from the traditional model in the past, i.e. “activity of organizationwith passive customers”, and describes the role of Value Co-creation in innovation management processes (Hoffmann, 2007). Value Co-creation is a way of sharing, combining, and renewal of resources and capabilities among the organizations and their active customers to create value through new forms of interaction, service, and learning mechanisms (Zwass, 2010). University scholars consider Value Co-creation as a practice theory. Functions are theinteractions and activities which are formed within the social system, where people work on the basis of their own social structures, interests and values (Kjellberg and Helgesson, 2007). In practice, Value Co-creation means the interaction among operators to create common value (Wong et al., 2016). The Value Co-creation related to university sustainability means the combination of sources, knowledge, abilities, and capacities of various university activists to improve instructional services and academic activities based on the sustainable development criteria.