Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)
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Report calls for HEFCE to be the catalyst and facilitator for sustainable development

A review of sustainable development in the higher education (HE) sector carried out for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has been published today. The review suggests that, although a great deal has been done, the momentum for change needs to continue and increase if HE institutions are to maximise their role in improving the environment, preserving natural resources and making an economic and social impact.

The review covers four main areas: teaching, research, corporate and estates management. It aims to ascertain a baseline of sustainable development in the sector, against which to measure progress and highlight what the sector is already doing. It also aimed to raise further the sustainability debate in HE in order to lead to greater understanding and engagement.

Commenting on the report, David Eastwood, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:

'The diversity of approaches by institutions reflects their different missions and priorities. It also demonstrates commitment to sustainable development across the whole of the HE sector. There is, however, the potential to advance society's understanding of sustainable development much further and to develop a wide range of solutions, and universities should and will be at the heart of this.

'Momentum is increasing and we believe this report fulfils a valuable role. There is much in here both for institutions and policy makers. We will be considering the suggestions carefully.'

The review includes the following findings:

* approximately two-thirds of institutions are engaged in
sustainable development related research
* although some institutions are fully committed to
sustainability, the level of involvement is uneven
* the place of sustainable development in the curriculum is varied
and not yet well connected with the skills agenda
* environmental performance across the estate is varied and
improving performance is an investment challenge, given the age and condition of many university buildings.

HEFCE will be considering the recommendations as part of the development of its next sustainable development action plan, for public consultation in early summer.

For further information, contact: Philip Walker, tel 0117 931 7363, e-mail p.walker@hefce.ac.uk


Notes

1. For the purpose of this review, activity related to sustainable
development was defined as activity that contained 'a significant element related to either or both of the natural environment and natural resources, PLUS a significant element related to either or both of economic or social issues'.

2. The review is on the HEFCE web-site at: http://hefce/pubs/rdreports/2008/rd03_08/

3. The review was directed by a steering group chaired by Geoffrey
Copland, formerly Vice-Chancellor of the University of Westminster. The review is based on responses to a survey from 93 HEIs. Survey responses were then followed up, plus four case studies of individual HEIs are presented. The review was commissioned by HEFCE and conducted by the Policy Studies Institute, the Centre for Research in Education and the Environment, University of Bath, and PA Consulting Group.

4. HEFCE published 'Sustainable development in higher education'
(HEFCE 2005/28) in June 2005. This set out our approach to promoting the sustainable development agenda.

5. HEFCE is consulting on the operation of a revolving green fund
(HEFCE 2008/03) to help institutions reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

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