More UK universities cut ties with fossil fuel industry | Sustainability #universities #cut #ties #fossil #fuel #industry #Sustainability

More UK universities are cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry in response to student campaigns, according to the annual survey of sustainability in higher education.

The student network People and Planet has published its sustainability university league showing that 72% of the universities it surveyed have committed to divesting from fossil fuels – up from 65% last year.

Jack Ruane, the university league manager at People & Planet, said there had been progress but much more needed to be done.

“We are seeing much higher engagement from a broad range of universities, including the Russell Group, because universities recognise that students are increasingly demanding their institutions are run sustainably and ethically.”

The Fossil Free campaign, active since 2013, has been led by students, who say it should not be acceptable for education and research institutions to invest in companies responsible for global heating.

Students have undertaken a range of campaign methods, from petitions gathering thousands of signatories, lobbying university management, political education and non-violent direct action, including occupying university buildings.

This year’s league table assessed 151 institutions based on 13 categories including environmental policy and strategy, ethical investment and banking, carbon management and reduction and workers’ rights.

For the first time, universities were also asked if they had a sustainable travel policy that included reducing emissions from aviation for staff travel. The institutions were then ranked and awarded a “1st class degree, 2:1, 2:2, Third, or Fail”.

Seven universities made commitments to end recruitment “pipelines” to the fossil fuel industry, which campaigners say reflects a growing movement of young people who are refusing to work with big oil.

The University of Reading topped the league table, up from fourth position in 2022-23. Ruane said its success was due to improvements in its carbon emissions, workers’ rights and ethical investment – including a commitment to screen out investments in companies complicit in the violation of international law.

Manchester Metropolitan University was ranked second and the University of Bedfordshire third.

Post-1992 universities ranked highly. gaining 66% of 1st class awards and three of the top five slots. Russell Group universities had only one in the top 10 in this year’s rankings – King’s College London. However, 58% of these institutions received a 2:1 award or higher, up from previous years.

The Royal Veterinary College finished bottom of the table, with 3.4% overall – with other smaller and specialist universities also scoring less than 10% overall.

The most dramatic improvement came from the University of Gloucestershire, which jumped 80 places, moving from a 3rd last year to a 1st this time round. The Robert Gordon University leaped 58 places, moving from a third to 2:1 having made improvements in sustainability policies, and having recently committed to divesting from fossil fuels. The University of Birmingham shot up 51 places, gaining a 2:2 having previously scored a fail, meaning all Russell Group universities are scoring passing grades.

On workers’ rights, 68 universities (45%) are accredited Living Wage Employers, up from 33% last year. Seventy-four universities (49%) have more than a quarter of their staff on fixed-term contracts, showing the precarity of employment in the sector.

#universities #cut #ties #fossil #fuel #industry #Sustainability

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