Sustainability in Education: what are universities and colleges doing?

A look at the state of sustainability across our universities and colleges 

Since 2015, we've been partnering with the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), University and College Union (UCU), the Association of Colleges and the College Development Network to carry out research on the state of sustainability across further and higher education. Staff from across the sector have completed an online survey annually so we can track how things are changing within the sector.

The findings of the research continue to demonstrate the need for students’ unions to work with their institutions on making improvements on all aspects of sustainability.

2017's Sustainability in Education research, found:

  • Only 1% of respondents felt their institution was doing all it could to progress environmental and social responsibility.
  • 71% (n=74) of respondents expect the 2017/18 budget to stay the same or decrease further. 
  • The report showed a large divide in resource capacity between Higher and Further Education. While half (n=10) of the lead sustainability staff in Further Education spend 10 per cent of their time focused on sustainability, two thirds (n=39) that work in Higher Education spend 100 per cent of their time focused on sustainability.
  • Despite the UK-wide focus on carbon reduction and its necessity, 13% (n=8) of Higher Education institutions reported they do not have a carbon reduction plan.
  • 75% (n=33) of lead sustainability staff respondents have reported that their institution has progressed action linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative. This was the biggest motivator of the initiatives listed.
  • Though estates and facilities departments still tend to lead on environmental sustainability and social responsibility, the responsibility is starting to spread into other departments, with significant increases in leadership from commercial services, finance, and communications and marketing departments, as well as students’ unions.
  • The biggest barriers facing institutions on this topic were, respectively; 1) Finances, budgets and budget cuts; 2) Lack of senior management commitment and strategic direction and 3) Lack of staff resources.
  • Looking forward into 2017-2018 and beyond, the most important agenda within environmental sustainability and social responsibility to the respondents was climate change, CO2 reduction and carbon management.

You can read the full reports here:

Sustainability in Education 2017 here

Sustainability in Education 2016  here

Sustainability in Education 2015  here