A new report on sustainability in tertiary education has revealed that many establishments are expecting to fail to meet their carbon reduction targets, with many reporting that sustainability is simply not an overall strategic priority.
The report, by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), National Union of Students (NUS), University and College Union (UCU), Association of Colleges (AoC) and the College Development Network is based on survey responses from 548 staff involved in sustainability in universities and colleges. Its aim was to identify how further and higher education institutions are responding to environmental sustainability and social responsibility challenges, as well as how staff perceive their institution’s efforts.
The key findings, as reported by EAUC, included:
• Only a quarter of respondents reported that sustainability is a strategic priority.
• University staff indicate doubts regarding the likelihood of achieving carbon reduction targets at their institutions, with two fifths saying they are unlikely or very unlikely to meet targets.
• Action on teaching and learning for sustainability is varied, with a quarter of Higher Education sustainability staff indicating that they do not have any plans in this area.
• A lack of financial and staff resources are seen as the biggest barriers to acting for sustainability.
• There are concerns over reductions in budget for sustainability, with a third of college sustainability staff respondents and a fifth of university sustainability staff respondents expecting a decrease in budget.
Graham Petersen, Environment Coordinator at UCU, said, “The evidence in the report is timely. The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate talks will put a renewed emphasis on the Further and Higher Education sector to embed sustainability. Some institutions are performing well but the overall picture is not encouraging. Education funding cuts must be reversed and a strategic framework put in place to ensure institutions deliver for students, staff and their communities.”