The Fairtrade Universities and Colleges award programme is a partnership between the Fairtrade Foundation and NUS, with support from the EAUC. It supports universities, colleges and students' unions in embedding Fairtrade, ethical procurement and responsible consumption initiatives.

Our 2012 research identified the key barriers for students purchasing Fairtrade products included a lack of availability, and a perception that products were too expensive. However, just over half of respondents stated that they made environmental and ethical considerations when deciding what to purchase.  This research, alongside a 2016 Dissertations for Good project into the higher education sector’s commitment to the existing Fairtrade Universities Award, pointed towards a desire and need for a new approach to better embedding these values and processes on campus. 

Twelve pilot partnerships (students' unions and their institutions), representing a broad spectrum of the UK higher and further education sector, have worked with NUS and the Fairtrade Foundation to devise the new award programme. The benefits of the new programme include:

  • The framework facilitates a close working partnership between students’ unions and their institutions through a set of criteria drawn from good practice across the sector.
  • It reflects the diversity of Fairtrade activities and products, provides support for making institutional changes and challenges students to lead campaigns and partnership projects to tackle broader issues of trade justice and ethical consumption.
  • A list of actions, information on how to achieve them and links to additional resources and examples enables partnerships to strategise their approach.
  • Providing support and access to NUS and the Fairtrade Foundation's resources and expertise, as well as using an online toolkit for ongoing measurement of reach and impact, adds significant value to the previous accreditation process.
  • The programme is audited on site, which is a new addition. Students are trained by NUS and the Fairtrade Foundations, giving an invaluable learning experience for them whilst ensuring the consistency of awards.
  • Building a network of partnerships is also central to the awards and enables collaborative approaches to larger national and international responsible trade and consumption campaigns.

The new Fairtrade Universities and Colleges award programme will run over a two-year period for each partnership, with audits and results' verification happening on an annual basis. It requires a partnership approach, with a team of students and staff from across the institution and students' union collaborating across the programme. Every two years, partnerships are audited by a team of NUS and Fairtrade Foundation -trained students, resulting in an externally-verified audit report and verification of results. There are several tiers of accreditation, ranging from basic Fairtrade University or College status, through one, two and three star awards. Accreditations are awarded annually and remain valid for two years.

To find out more and sign up to take part this year, please refer to our rates page and sign-up form