Site Logo
Going green appeals to students

As Paul Bean from Nurture Landscapes explains, an institution’s green credentials can make a big difference to the student experience.

ACCORDING to a Times Higher Education survey, sustainability is perceived to be as important as location when it comes to international students selecting a university. While the quality of teaching, cost of tuition, and the university’s rankings all come much higher, sustainable practices and demonstrating a commitment to caring for the environment should not be overlooked.

A second survey, conducted by student-led education charity, Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS), backs up this view, revealing that 88% of recipients were “fairly” or “very” concerned about climate change. More than three-quarters also agreed that the long-term impacts of climate change are just as serious as Covid-19 and climate change should be a priority in the UK’s recovery from the pandemic.

The term “sustainability” has been used increasingly frequently in recent times. Though it is encouraging to see greater awareness of environmental issues, universities must not fall into the trap of “greenwashing”, as the University of Oxford was accused of doing earlier this year, due to its reported links to fossil fuels. Only through tangible actions and deliverables will campuses be able to define themselves as sustainable.

At Nurture, more of our clients are turning to us for advice on setting and achieving individual sustainability targets. These range from improving recycling policies through to devising plans to improve biodiversity and habitats around a site. For instance, at our business park locations, we are witnessing a trend of outdoor meeting “pods”, which sow the seeds of a collaborative working environment within a unique feature. For students, these can also provide a means of having face-to-face social interaction (remember that?) in a safe facility.

Interior plant displays strategically placed across a campus provide an alternative social distancing measure by dividing corridors down the middle and directing students through possible bottlenecks where close contact is almost inevitable. Though they will not be the complete solution to student concerns about being in close proximity with each other, using plants as partitioning goes beyond simple aesthetics.

Of course, there is a lot more that universities will be judged on when making bold sustainability claims. To use the BP Target Neutral initiative (which we ourselves use to make sure we fulfil our own environmental obligations) as a guide, a campus must demonstrate how sustainability fits in with the day-to-day running of its faculties and hold itself to account when working towards these targets.

The switch to electric vehicles is more often than not where site managers start in their individual Mission: Sustainable aspirations. It’s not that difficult to see why – EVs are proving to be cheaper to run and put a significant dent in total emission output. With multiple areas to maintain, campus managers soon clock up the miles, and the carbon dioxide.

Fortunately, many are starting to see the benefits of making electric charging points accessible, with the likes of University of Cambridge and Manchester Metropolitan having more than two-thirds of their respective fleets now running on electric. Of course, there is still room for improvement, but there are signs that universities are opening up to the potential of EVs. We ourselves have been leading our clients by example through the electrification of our own fleet and equipment.

With warnings about our changing climate continuing to make the headlines, sustainability is going to remain in the forefront of many peoples’ minds, especially younger generations. Universities will need to considerably up their games to keep up with the changing perceptions of their policies.

Otherwise, they run the risk of losing the next wave of talented student who will ultimately be the ones who take the country forward.

Related Stories
AUDE explores Covid’s impact on higher education
AUDE (the Association of University Directors of Estates) has published a new report, Blended Working in the Higher Education Sector: A review of the post-pandemic university workplace, which looks at how working off-campus during the Covid-19 pandemic has changed attitudes, perceptions and habits in higher education across the world.
Landlords and students set for legal tussles
The anticipated spread of coronavirus across educational institutions, cancellation of exams and temporary closures of universities is set to cause major disruption for students and their accommodation providers.
CUBO research highlights under-occupancy issues
In a first of its kind, CUBO in collaboration with real estate advisors JLL, has conducted a snapshot survey into the occupancy rates in university-owned purpose built student accommodation (PBSA).
Student applicants top last year’s numbers
MORE people have applied to become undergraduates this year than the previous year, providing an enormous boost to anxious university officials and allaying fears of multiple failures across the sector.
Minimise learning disruption with purer air
After two years of disrupted learning, Tim Browning, Head of Business Development - Air Treatment at Fellowes, discusses the role of air purification systems in reducing the transmission of harmful germs and viruses to safeguard student and staff health

Login / Sign up