Most parents don’t recognise role of universities in tackling climate change
Last updated on Thursday 28 Apr 2022 at 2:46pm
- Only four in 10 parents believe that UK universities are equipping students with knowledge about climate change
- Parents of teenagers looking to universities to help their children find purposeful, climate-positive careers
- Universities across the UK have joined together to showcase their vital impact as part of major new campaign backed by actor and environmentalist Lily Cole
Just four in 10 (44%) parents of 16–18-year-olds – the crucial next generation of climate activists, researchers and scientists – believe that UK universities are equipping students with knowledge about climate change, according to new research from Universities UK.
And alarmingly, although nearly every university in the country has a published sustainability strategy, less than half of parents (49%) recognise that universities are researching solutions to climate change, with only a quarter (24%) thinking they communicate to the public about their efforts.
The findings come as universities across the UK launch a major new campaign backed by actor and environmentalist Lily Cole, to reaffirm their commitment to tackling the climate emergency through researching solutions, working with local communities, and equipping students and the public with much-needed climate literacy.
Public looking to universities to equip population with green skills
Despite this apparent lack of awareness, parents see universities as crucial to delivering on the Department for Education’s sustainability and climate change strategy – published last week – with 64% believing that going to university would equip their child with skills and knowledge that can help make the world a better place, and 70% thinking a university degree is essential for those contemplating a career in tackling climate change.
And given the opportunity, more than one in three UK adults (37%) would consider higher education as a route to upskilling to realign their career with efforts to combat the climate emergency.
Environmentalists out in force to back campaign
Universities throughout the country have joined forces with celebrities and organisations including model Lily Cole, to set the record straight on their commitment to climate action. A new set of case studies – published today – demonstrates the remarkable breadth of ways that universities are actively tackling the climate emergency through their research, business and community interaction, and efforts to equip each and every graduate with climate literacy, no matter what subject they study.
With scientists issuing a 'now or never' plea in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the need for bold and urgent climate action has never been clearer. Universities across the UK play an important role in tackling the climate emergency - educating and inspiring the next generation of climate activists, and carrying out research and innovation on a global scale.
"I'm proud to support this campaign and by association the ground-breaking work being delivered by our universities. They give me hope that together we can make the changes necessary to secure a sustainable future for generations to come.
Actor, model and environmentalist
We need urgent and ambitious climate solutions and must ensure future generations are given the chance to build the careers they need to tackle this emergency head on. Universities are crucial to this. A university education can make all the difference in equipping students with the knowledge and skills to help them to make a positive impact on the planet, whatever path they choose.
Professor Steve West CBE
President, Universities UK
The fight against climate change involves us all. On my visits to universities across the country I’ve seen how they are equipping the next generation of scientists, naturalists, engineers, inventors, campaigners and so many more with the skills and knowledge they need to make progress.
"Only last week we launched our Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy that puts the issue at the heart of the education system at all levels – with improved resources for teachers and climate leads in all nurseries, schools, colleges and universities. From September 2022 we’re trialling higher education short courses that will help learners upskill or retrain in five important subjects which includes net zero. We’re also working with universities and colleges to help them understand their own emissions."
"I’m happy to support this campaign and all the work that universities are already doing – together we can make a real difference.
Michelle Donelan MP
Minister of State for Higher and Further Education
About the research
Research was conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of Universities UK. The sample polled 2,000 UK adults, weighted to be nationally representative, alongside 2,000 parents of 16-18 year olds. Polling took place 11–18 March 2022.
- 46% of adults would like to have the green skills necessary to be able to contribute to tackling climate change
- 41% are or would consider upskilling themselves in how to build sustainability into their current careers
- Over a third (37%) are or would consider enrolling on a higher education course to learn more about climate change.
- 36% are or would consider taking on a professional qualification in sustainability
- 58% of parents are worried that future generations will not be equipped to deal with climate change
- 61% of parents would like to see more from universities on researching the solutions to climate change.
- 59% would like to see them working with schools and local communities more
- 78% of parents think universities have an impact on tackling climate change, but universities were ranked lowest for impact, below governments, businesses and brands, charities, NGOs, protest groups and individuals
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