Currently, the issues on sustainability receive extremely high interest, especially from young generation. This makes universities as key participants in sustainable development as far as they provide wide possibilities for engagement in the process. Despite many studies devoted to universities as participants of sustainable development, there still is insufficient knowledge about their contribution to the process. Mostly, studies are qualitative and consider certain examples of good practices, which do not provide insights on common and different characteristics and trends of universities’ contribution to sustainable development. This is the result of the early stage of development of the reporting about universities’ sustainable efforts what limits possibilities to carry quantitative analysis. The paper aims, first, to search for characteristics of universities’ contribution to sustainable development and, second, to detect trends by using numerical secondary data worked up in UI GreenMetric World University Ranking. The paper focuses on universities from European Union. Special attention is devoted to countries’ economic development level as far as scientific literature suggests that the level of economic development may affect involvement in sustainable development. Research findings allows to indicate that there are both common and distinct characteristics across the cases from economically high and less developed countries what is significant for further policy-making and popularizing of sustainability idea across universities in the European Union. Universities continue to improve practices and search for new accents. However, universities’ intention to report about their sustainable efforts in long-term perspective for continuing data collection must be more active.
One of the approaches to achieve sustainable development is based on smart specialization. Rural areas are of particular importance in ensuring sustainable development, the smart development of which largely determines the balanced sustainable development of a state as a whole. The present study reflects the quantitative and the qualitative assessment of sustainable development in the region of Latgale (Latvia) on the level of 19 districts; the assessment has been carried out on the basis of the concept of smart specialization. The assessment has been performed within the framework of the project 5.2 of the National Research Programme EKOSOC-LV. The quantitative assessment is based on scientific and practical experience taking into consideration the distinguishing features of the development of Latvian regions and districts, and it has resulted in the establishment of an integrated index (Smart Development Index), which comprises four dimensions - Resources, Population, Economy, and Management. The qualitative assessment is based on the views concerning the cornerstones of smart specialization and the factors influencing it expressed by experts from the state administration, business and scientific environment. Expert opinions have been collected by using Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) method. The results of the research might facilitate the understanding of the support measures of smart specialization and the opportunities for sustainable development in rural areas, taking into account the level of the regional socio-economic development and the rate of development, as well as regional differences on the level of districts. The example of Latgale has shown that a small number of people and a low rate of development in most of the region districts simultaneously create both the acute need for and a great challenge in the sphere of sustainable development. By contrast, as a result of both the quantitative and the qualitative assessment the population has been recognised to be the main driving force of the development of rural areas in Latgale region.