Huddersfield University was placed 46th in a ‘Green League’ of UK universities today. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) is named as the greenest university in the UK today (11 June) by the People & Planet Green League 2013 – the UK’s only comprehensive and independent ranking of universities by ethical and environmental criteria published by The Guardian.
Plymouth University took 2nd place for the second year running, with Bangor University named the most sustainable Welsh institution and Edinburgh Napier topping the Scotland ranking for the 3rd year running. Gloucestershire, Worcester and Brighton also all made it into the UK top 5.
MMU has jumped 9 places to take the top spot in 2013, with the highest score ever achieved (59.5 out of 70). Theirs is a story of steady progress and improvement in environmental and ethical performance since they failed the first Green League assessment 2007.
Professor John Brooks, Vice-Chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University, said:
“The whole university community will be thrilled with this recognition from People & Planet. Sustainability has been the main driver for the £350 million rationalisation of our campuses as we can and must meet the imperatives of the present without compromising the needs of the future. At MMU, we firmly believe that a strong ethos of sustainability not only strengthens the University’s appeal to students but improves the experience in so many different ways. In partnership with our students, we are working to create a sustainable university which goes beyond being carbon neutral and actually has a positive environmental impact.”
Nationally, the results were excellent, demonstrating clearly the combined impact of student-led campaigns, sector-wide carbon reduction targets and the growing number of university Vice-Chancellors committed to tackling climate change.
According to John Hindley, Manchester Met’s environmental manager, the People & Planet Green League itself has had a major influence over their performance and that of the higher education sector in general. “In effect, it’s a very large universal auditing exercise that levels the field for the whole of higher education. The Green League has had a great effect for the whole sector and despite being in effect compulsory, it’s exceptionally competitive. It’s also something that is hard to do well in, because it’s not just looking at what you have out there as policy but also challenges you to back that up with solid performance data.”
The results also show UK universities are doing more to improve graduate prospects by preparing them for the future low-carbon economy and increasing their focus on sustainability in the curriculum; 47% of universities gained full points for integrating sustainability into the curriculum, compared to 27% just two years ago. In response to higher student demand People & Planet also recorded a huge increase in initiatives to engage staff and students on sustainability issues.
However, it’s not all good news. Universities are still failing to make the connection between their own academics’ research on climate change and the partnerships and investments they have with the fossil fuel companies causing climate change.
Huddersfield University was commended by the study for its waste and recycling as well as its approach to water use reduction. It was classed as needing to ‘do better’ on ethical procurement and fair trade, sustainable food, student and staff engagement, renewable energy and carbon emissions. The university was judged as having poor performance on Environmental Policy, Environmental auditing, Ethical investment, Carbon Management and Education and Learning. There is more information about Huddersfield University’s score on http://peopleandplanet.org/green-league-2013/tables?ggl13profile=9950&test=03b668
Tim Padmore from Kirklees Campaign Against Climate Change says “We’d like to commend Huddersfield University on its approach to waste and recycling and water use reduction. However, we’re especially concerned about its score on ethical investment. Across the world students are putting pressure on their universities to divest: to switch investment from fossil fuels to ethical investment. We hope Huddersfield University students will join this movement.”
Louise Hazan, who compiled this year’s People & Planet Green League, said: “After a decade of student-led Go Green campaigning, the Higher Education sector has made excellent progress in areas ranging from carbon reduction to ethical procurement. For the first time ever, 100% of universities assessed now have an environmental policy. However, we’re seeing excruciatingly slow progress from too many universities in some criteria such as ethical investment given the urgency of the climate challenge. We’d encourage those who have failed this year’s Green League ‘exam’ to take a leaf out of Manchester Metropolitan’s book.”
In May 2013, University of Oxford which failed this year’s Green League assessment, announced a £5.9 million partnership between their Earth Sciences department and Shell. The partnership will support research into new techniques for extracting even more fossil fuels despite climate scientists’ warnings that more than 80% of fossil fuels must stay in the ground. In response, students have launched a Fossil Free Oxford campaign as part of a wider movement to sever the links between their institutions and the fossil fuel industry.
Chris Garrard, a postgraduate student from Oxford University, commented:
“Oxford is a hub for student campaigning alongside research that is having a powerful influence on international development and the environment. The trouble is, this positive activity becomes rather tainted when the Vice-Chancellor and others at the top set a tone of profit before people, and deals before ethics. It sets a poor example to students and those in the outside world that respect and acknowledge Oxford’s reputation. Deals such as the one agreed with Shell, represent a conscious choice to invest in a more unjust and potentially unstable world that the current students will inherit. That’s enough to justify a fail.”
* The People & Planet Green League is compiled annually by the UK’s largest student campaigning network, People & Planet. http://peopleandplanet.org/greenleague. In 2013, the People & Planet Green League ranks 143 UK universities – awarding them a First, 2:1, 2:2, Third, or Fail – according to 13 criteria including: environmental policy, carbon management and their performance in areas such as carbon reduction, waste recycling, student engagement, green curriculum, energy efficiency, transport emissions, sustainable food, ethical procurement and water consumption. The ranking combines data obtained directly from universities through the Freedom of Information Act with raw estates data obtained from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Find out more: http://peopleandplanet.org/greenleague/methodology
* Over the last three years, the Higher Education Academy and NUS have conducted surveys of c11,000 first-year students showing rising student demand for various aspects of sustainability. The latest survey showed that 85% think “Sustainable development is something that universities should actively incorporate and promote.”