Sign up

Have some pie!

UK unis torn over travel to combat climate crisis

While the majority of UK universities are not considering changing student destinations for study and work abroad, a significant number already have, according to a new survey.

The survey found that institutions are beginning to link their international strategies with their sustainability policies Photo: Unsplash

Institutions are unable to agree on whether or not to change student destinations for outward studies and work placements

Universities UK International last month published the results of its members survey, completed by 44 universities, which gathered information on the extent to which higher education institutions have linked their international strategies with their sustainability policies.

The survey revealed that universities are conscious of the connection, with 38% of respondents saying their international strategy is already linked to their sustainability in some way and an additional 47% saying they are planning to link the two.

But institutions are unable to agree on whether or not to change student destinations for outward studies and work placements, with 53% indicating that they are not considering this option, while 46% say they have already made or are considering making this change.

The demand from students for outgoing mobility opportunities is the second-greatest challenge for respondents when it comes to reducing carbon footprint in line with internationalisation, according to the survey.

“We still believe there is value in travelling overseas”

Leo Smith, head of global mobility at De Montfort University, said that when the university launched its latest sustainability plan, the global mobility office “felt we played a really key part in that.”

DMU has increased its virtual activities since the beginning of the pandemic, offering online internships and workshops to complement overseas travel.

“We are and we will be reducing the number of overseas trips, but it doesn’t mean we will stop them,” Smith said. “We still believe there is value in travelling overseas”.

But Smith said the university is considering changing student destinations, including “encouraging more staff… to run opportunities in Europe and then making more sustainable travel choices when they do”.

Analysis by People and Planet published in December found that more than half of UK universities are not on track to meet their emissions targets.

UUKi also questioned organisations on their approach to employee travel, with only 46% saying they have an environmentally sustainable travel policy for staff, while an additional 48% stated that this was under consideration.

In response to the findings, Iain Patton, CEO of EAUC, an alliance for sustainability leadership in education, advises organisations to ensure they have “a mechanism that is put in place before people automatically head off to an exotic destination”, including first considering whether there are more sustainable ways of travelling, such as by rail, or whether technology could be used instead.

Some 90% of respondents are part of working groups but universities still expressed their wish for collaboration, with the majority of respondents choosing “sharing ideas and discussing challenges” as the area of support that would most help them to advance climate-related changes.

Related articles

Still looking? Find by category:

Add your comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer: All user contributions posted on this site are those of the user ONLY and NOT those of The PIE Ltd or its associated trademarks, websites and services. The PIE Ltd does not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with any comments, opinions or statements or other content provided by users.

To receive The PIE Weekly with our top stories and insights, and other updates from us, please