19 Apr 2022 UUKi blog
19 Apr 2022 UUKi blog
Last updated on Friday 22 Apr 2022 on 3:11pm
Report of a survey into internationalisation and climate action.
This report has been published following a member survey aimed at gaining an understanding of the extent to which international strategies (or equivalent) in higher education institutions are linked to and impacted by their corresponding sustainability strategies. It explores the type of practical actions the sector is taking as a result of the climate emergency. These include actions related to research, outgoing mobility, international student recruitment and transnational education (TNE).
Key findings include:
The report also looks at trends and best practice and identifies areas in need of further support, as well as the opportunities available to institutions in this space. It concludes by suggesting some areas for further action.
The report is accompanied by case studies from six universities: De Montfort University, University of Exeter, Keele University, Lancaster University, University of Glasgow and University of London, which you can view further down the page.
Later in the spring, the MadeAtUni campaign will focus on how universities’ climate research, their development of green skills, and sustainability actions are important to all our lives.
Keele University is committed to ‘embedding sustainability in everything we do’, this includes ensuring we can support the benefits of internationalisation while minimising its impacts.
Keele’s Climate Action Framework is based on eleven high level principles. A key commitment is to ensure that our strategy for international engagement and partnerships “supports a net zero carbon transition”. International travel for university business, including student recruitment and mobility, is included in our scope 3 emissions. Our aim: net zero by 2030.
Net Zero Transition Group
Keele has an overarching ‘Net Zero Transition Group’ (NZTG) which acts as a reference group for fifteen working groups across the university (including for example student travel – domestic and international; business travel; external partnerships; education & training) which are led by directorate heads with accountability for action in this area. The NZTG meets monthly and reports to a NZ Project Executive group on a three-monthly basis. Reports to University Executive Committee and to Council are made annually.
Keele’s net zero strategy is led by Professor Mark Ormerod, the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Strategic Lead for Sustainability. The Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, Professor Zoe Robinson, provides co-ordination for all initiatives. The Institute brings together research, education, and training in a portfolio of activities around long-term sustainability.
Our approach to internationalisation and climate change is to be transparent about the impact of internationalisation on the university’s climate action agenda and, in parallel, establish international connections to support our climate action initiatives (partnership development, education, and knowledge exchange).
We aim for transparency but acknowledge the tensions around strengthening internationalisation and pursuing climate action policies. Colleagues in various roles are working to address the issues. The adaptations made for Covid show us how we can provide a breadth of educational experiences in place of traditional ‘study abroad’.
An example: School of Geography, Geology and Environment
Our School of Geography, Geology and Environment (GGE) has moved away from compulsory overseas field courses and now requires formal consideration of carbon footprints as part of field course decision-making. GGE also now integrates sustainability and climate action into core elements of summer school programmes for international students. Such changes are driven by individuals who feel empowered and supported to drive change within their own spheres of influence, supported by the culture of distributed responsibility for sustainability at Keele.
At the University of Glasgow, we are proud of our ambitious sustainability strategy, Glasgow Green, which commits the University to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. It is therefore imperative that the institution’s new International Strategy, Global Glasgow, which will be published in March 2022, articulates a clear and impactful vision for international engagement, whilst being cognisant of working in harmony with our carbon reduction KPIs and supporting the broader UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In guiding our future international ambitions, the University specifically focused on key areas aligned to our response to the climate emergency:
Student and staff travel
Student and staff travel
A new business travel policy for all aspects of our work, including travel associated with research, teaching and student recruitment, aims to reduce emissions by 7.5% on an annual basis. The policy focuses on the importance of intentional travel, virtual engagement as a substitute for physical engagement, maximising the value of travel where it is undertaken, and the necessity of choosing train/boat/bus travel over flying wherever feasible. The aim of the policy is to provide clear guidance to our community to empower sustainable decision-making and to raise awareness of the sustainability agenda in line with our institutional values.
Global Glasgow sets out the target of 50% of our student community enjoying some form of international experience by the time they graduate. Whilst there is absolute recognition of the merit of in-country experiences, significant efforts are being placed in expanding our virtual exchange offering and the development of Collaborative Online International Learning initiatives (COIL) with academic colleagues and peers. The delivery of meaningful virtual opportunities with partners, and across networks and associations, will provide scale to our current global mobility opportunities, and support greater numbers of under-represented groups to participate in ‘internationalisation at home’ activities.
Lastly, partnership is a critical element of our international and institutional strategy. It is fundamental that we collaborate and take a systems leadership approach to addressing the climate emergency, engaging with other HEIs, government, industry, and our wider communities locally, nationally and internationally – by sharing best practice and galvanising our own stakeholders, we believe we can go further and faster in supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and responding to global challenges.
Glasgow is engaging with various working groups to coordinate efforts and think creatively about how to meet our joint ambitions. Together, we are World Changing Glasgow.
Sustainability lies at heart of what we do at Lancaster. In 2020, we declared a climate emergency with the aim to become carbon neutral across scopes 1-3 by 2035 and this commitment is at the core of the University’s recent Strategic Plan 2021-2026. This plan outlines sustainable changes we pledge to make in response to a growingly resource-constrained world. We are making strong progress and are now the highest producer of renewable energy of all UK universities, according to HESA. A key challenge we are now focusing on concerns internationalisation and scope 3 emissions resulting from mobility.
A Global Lancaster
Lancaster is a global university with a network of overseas campuses in China, Germany, Ghana and Malaysia offering validated Lancaster degrees. Our campuses form a key part of our global community with one third of our undergraduate students studying overseas, with a strong mobility programme equipping our graduates to become truly global citizens.
Whilst we have been establishing new connections between our individual campuses over time, the pandemic travel restrictions and climate concerns have become two major accelerants of digital connectivity, which is now a central element of our efforts to manage scope 3 travel emissions via our new sustainable travel guidance.
Since early 2020, we have established a range of bespoke digital platforms that enable our students to experience the benefits of internationalisation without having to travel. The roll-out of new digital infrastructure and deployment of comprehensive online training materials entitled “Embrace Digital”, has ensured that the project inclusively supports our staff and students across our global locations. This digital connectivity enables the lowering of carbon intensity of international activity, increases the accessibility for attendees, as well as providing a new model that transforms global engagement.
Some examples are:
Meanwhile, we have launched new Sustainable Travel Guidance to support the University’s carbon reduction target, using a travel decision tree designed by the Lancaster Environment Centre to encourage digital alternatives to compliment sustainable travel choices when international mobility is necessary.
Three Tips from Lancaster
DMU Global is De Montfort University’s flagship student mobility scheme offering international experiences for students that aim to enrich studies, broaden cultural horizons and develop key skills values by employers. Previously focused on short-term overseas experiences, our mobility offer has been re-imagined since the pandemic, with a renewed focus on sustainable growth, the UN SDGs and reducing carbon emissions while still supporting high-quality student mobility options.
We ensure that sustainability is at the forefront of planning and delivery, considering how our overseas trips can be the most impactful without unnecessarily increasing carbon emissions.
Sustainability & Travel online pre-departure module
One way in which we are making DMU Global more sustainable is through educating our students on how to be sustainable travellers. Launched this year, we have created a bespoke online learning module for all DMU Global overseas participants to complete as part of their pre-departure preparation. This short training module includes facts about travel and its impact on the environment, recommendations for more sustainable travel and questions to assess learning. The aim of the module is to encourage our students to be ‘greener travellers’ in the future.
Making greener travel choices
We actively encourage DMU staff to consider the impact of their travel plans when proposing overseas trips. Colleagues are provided with sustainable travel resources and are asked to outline the actions that they will take to minimise the environmental impact of their trip.
Furthermore, we work collaboratively with our student travel provider, Key Travel, to ensure that they always propose a greener package and encourage staff to make more sustainable choices when booking travel.
Online international learning experiences
The pandemic has reframed how we see international opportunities at DMU, recognising that students can have meaningful intercultural experiences without the need to travel. As we do resume overseas trips, we will continue to offer virtual international experiences in the form of internships, short courses, workshops, and COIL projects. Such activity will help us engage with a wider range of students, whilst not increasing the carbon footprint of DMU.
DMU global Online Learning has allowed us to create a more inclusive, accessible and sustainable programme of international activity. In 2020-21 more than 600 students participated in over 50 unique online experiences, many of which had a specific focus on the topics of sustainability, global citizenship and the UN SDGs.
This has included students completing an online course delivered by DMU Global titled ‘The World We Live In – Responding to Global Issues’ that engaged students in conversations about current global issues through the lens of the UN SDGs including Goal 13: Climate action. Another example is our collaboration with Think Pacific, where DMU students have completed 12-week virtual internships supporting the Fijian Government, NGOs and business in achieving ethical, responsible and sustainable development.
The University of London provides distance and blended learning to over 50,000 students studying in 190 countries. We engage with this global student community in our sustainability work and ensure that through heightened awareness the environmental impact of our worldwide provision is minimised.
Avoided emissions through transnational teaching and learning
Our transnational students take our degrees entirely in their own country. Based on the assumption that if they studied in London each student would make at least one return trip to the UK each year, we conservatively estimate that some 97,000 tonnes of Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) are saved annually.
Student engagement and sustainability education: Reduce the Juice
Since 2016, the University of London has run Reduce the Juice, a student-focused sustainability engagement programme. Its aim is to help our students in halls of residence to acquire the knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development through local climate action. Each month the programme focuses on a different sustainability theme such as low-carbon energy, creating zero waste, and saving water. Students take part in a sustainability challenge to show how they have put their knowledge into practice.
During the global pandemic in 2020 we moved Reduce the Juice fully online and opened it up to our global student community, greatly increasing the impact of the programme by encouraging students around the world to enact changes in their own behaviour to have a positive environmental impact at local level.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive with a high level of student engagement, allowing the voices and experiences of students in diverse contexts to be heard, and also enabling the sharing of experiences between those on the climate front line and their peers around the world; thus building further advocacy for change.
Umar Saeed, studying in Pakistan, won our waste challenge by creating a recycling collection point in his flat which he himself empties at the local recycling point. He also outlined the changes he’d like to see in local waste management policies to enable wider change.
Our global exams operation involved over 100,000 exam papers being printed and shipped to and from our 450 examination centres around the world. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have delivered in excess of 100,000 exams online per session, producing an estimated emissions reduction of 62 tonnes of CO2e for each session. Going forward, a hybrid approach to exams delivery will secure sustained improvements in our carbon footprint.
We aim to achieve net zero operational carbon on our London campus by 2036, the bicentenary of our founding. The University’s Sustainability Team is developing our Scope 3 emissions strategy in 2022, which will be achieved through sustained collaboration between teams in London and our students across the world. More information on the University’s progress is available in our annual sustainability report.
At the University of Exeter we recently launched our new ten-year strategy, which addresses the major challenges of our time including climate change. Following our declaration of an environment and climate emergency in May 2019, we have made significant progress in reducing our carbon emissions and have put in place ambitious plans to achieve Carbon Net Zero by 2030. The University is home to the UK’s five most influential climate scientists, and more of the world’s top 100 climate scientists than anywhere else. We are working with our international partners to use our expertise to accelerate global action to address the climate emergency and environmental crisis.
In partnership with The University of Queensland, we established the QUEX Institute, a flagship initiative designed to tackle major global challenges through interdisciplinary collaborative research, staff and student mobility and industry and community engagement. Under the overarching theme of Global Sustainability and Wellbeing, QUEX focuses on three interdisciplinary themes closely aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, of which the largest is Global Environmental Futures. Over the last five years, QUEX has funded 38 joint PhD students, 31 collaborative research projects and 21 professional services fellowships.
The Global Environmental Futures theme brings together world-leading researchers to address environmental challenges by producing high impact outputs, such as a recent paper in Global Change Biology led by a QUEX PhD student, which indicated that parts of the Great Barrier Reef will be hit with extreme levels of coral bleaching five times each decade by the middle of this century unless global warming is kept below 2°C.
Exeter and Queensland are now developing a joint online Master’s programme in Global Environmental Futures for launch in January 2023, which will equip the next generation of leaders with the knowledge and skills to create change for a sustainable world. This innovative course will cover a broad range of topics across the areas of global ecosystem and climate change.
Our annual QUEX symposium was held virtually, as was a trilateral symposium on Environmental Sustainability between Exeter, Queensland and The Chinese University of Hong Kong. During the pandemic we have learnt about the resilience and adaptability of our partnership and what we can achieve without travel. This learning will provide a roadmap for capitalising on the strengths of international partnerships while minimising our carbon footprint into the future.
 Reuters Hot List of most influential climate scientists