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The past week’s higher education news demonstrates that there are certain expectations of universities that policymakers, HE leaders and the Augar review are expected to address, says Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of the Engineering Professors’ Council and Chief Executive of outreach organisation Push .
Leaders of thirty universities have signed a Civic University Agreement, reaffirming their institution's commitment to their local communities by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in their home towns and cities at the top of their list of priorities.
The University of Worcester has brought together figures from education, business and politics to look at how the Midlands can be more sustainable.
The Midlands Sustainability Network for Further and Higher Education Institutions, brings together Sustainability West Midlands and the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges.
It was launched with a conference at the University’s City Campus where the audience heard presentations by sustainability experts.
The idea is that universities and student unions work with local communities, businesses and voluntary organisations to bring about greater sustainability.
Representatives came from a number of Midlands universities including Aston, Birmingham, Birmingham City, Coventry, Warwick and Wolverhampton, as well as further afield.
Sustainability professionals, academics and researchers as well as representatives of Midlands businesses, Worcester City Council, Worcestershire County Council, Staffordshire County Council and Worcestershire Wildlife Trust also attended.
Delegates heard about how businesses have benefited from West Midlands universities’ research on sustainability, sustainable cities and the link between economic development, sustainability and the education sector.
Honorary Professor at the University of Worcester, Steve Martin, also told the audience of his experience at the world’s most sustainable university, the University of British Columbia Canada and Arizona State University, in the USA.
Universities involved in the network educate a total of more than 345,000 students, which is five per cent of the adult population in the Midlands.
Katy Boom, the University of Worcester’s Director of Sustainability, has been the driving force behind getting the network off the ground and is the Network’s chair.
She said: “Rather than all of us trying to do this on our own we have to work together and have a bigger impact.
“If we can influence all the students, the academics and researchers around sustainability, these are the key decision makers that will be going out to the world of work.
“Through both university processes on campus and most importantly how we teach our students that’s going to make the biggest impact on sustainability globally.
“It’s had huge interest and been really successful so what I perceived as a need has been realised.”
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