Thursday, June 17, 2010
06/11/2010 Plymouth universities present tale of two cities in green league table

Authors of higher education green survey claim studying at lowest-ranking institutions add almost third to a student's carbon footprint

Plymouth is home to the universities with the best and the worst "green" credentials, according to a new league table.

Plymouth University took first place in The People & Planet Green League 2010, which claims to be the only assessment of the environmental performance of Britain's universities.

The nearby University College Plymouth St Mark & St John propped up the bottom of the rankings, which were compiled by the student campaign group, who have criticised the overall lack of green initiatives across the higher education sector.

The table's authors have claimed that studying at the lowest-ranking institutions adds almost a third to the average UK individual's carbon footprint.

The Royal College of Music is this year's biggest climber, jumping from 126th place in 2009 into 22nd this year, while Kings College London has seen its ranking slide 75 places to 113th this year.

Despite pledges by some universities to cut emissions by 34% over the next 10 years, the authors have highlighted "a severe lack of ambition and urgency across the sector more broadly".

While the total staff and student headcount across the UK academy has risen by 7% since 2005, carbon emissions have climbed by 25%, according to the campaigners. The table is published today in the Times Higher Education Supplement.

Louise Hazan, People & Planet's climate campaigner, said: "We expected this year's Green League to show the sector making a clear transition towards low-carbon operations â€" students have been demanding this for years. Despite clear improvements across the board on policy and student engagement, we found that the sector as a whole is emitting 25% more carbon now than it did five years ago. That's obviously incredibly worrying with regards to climate change"

The table, now in its fourth year, assesses universities on the basis of seven policy areas, including carbon management and sustainable procurement initiatives, and four performance indicators, such as waste and carbon emissions per head.

The campaigners investigated 137 eligible institutions, of which 133 provided enough information to be entered into the league. Information was obtained from the higher education funding councils, the Freedom of Information Act, and the universities themselves.

Energy and climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, said of the research: "The Green League throws a spotlight onto the work being done in universities to cut emissions, and I hope it will encourage universities and students to redouble their efforts in the fight against climate change. It is the students in universities today who will be carrying on the work to build the low carbon Britain of tomorrow, and it is vital that universities and government set a good example."

Professor Wendy Purcell, vice-chancellor of the University of Plymouth, described their top billing as a "fantastic external recognition for the university"

"At the University of Plymouth, we aspire to be a socially responsible organisation, demonstrating sustainability in all our activities and ensuring our students are aware of economic, environmental, social and ethical issues.

"We are working hard to ensure we lead the thinking in this area, using our research expertise to make a difference and embedding this knowledge in the way we manage our estate."

A spokesperson from University College Plymouth St Mark & St John said: "The university is dedicated to reducing its carbon emissions and applauds People & Planet in their work to drive UK universities' transition to a low carbon future.

"However, in compiling the Green League 2010, the campaign group have failed to recognise the value the university places on environmental management and the achievements the institution has made to date. Instead, the Green League 2010 has judged the institution primarily on an incomplete response to their questionnaire."

Susan Nash, National Union of Students Vice-President for Society and Citizenship said that the league table was "a powerful tool which has transformed institutions, and helped put sustainability well and truly on the desk of every vice chancellor", but criticised institutions that fared badly in the research:

"The lack of ambition from many universities is concerning. Even at a time when budgets are tight there innovative ways for universities campuses to save money and reduce emissions which is essential if we are to meet carbon reduction targets and effectively fight climate change."

Henry James Foy ? Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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