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Sandra Booth, Director of Policy and External Relations for the Council for Higher Education in Art & Design (CHEAD), reviews a week of higher education news in which concerns emerged over universities’ financial stability due to Covid-19 and the impact of the crisis on students.
A growing number of higher education conferences and events are being postponed or moved online in response to the Coronavirus restrictions.
Amid predictions that higher education will be changed forever by the current pandemic, Professor James Miller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests the innovative ways the sector is responding to the crisis will make it even more valued in the future.
The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.
As a growing number of universities move teaching and assessment online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Derby is holding a virtual conference which aims to support staff in making the transition.
Research published by sustainability consultancy Brite Green shows English universities have achieved their best year-on-year reduction in carbon emissions to date - but the sector is still not on track to meet targets for 2020 set by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Emissions from institutions in England fell by 7 per cent in 2015-16, compared to a total reduction of 10 per cent over the previous 10 years, says a report on the findings.
Yet on current trends the sector still stands to fall 20 percentage points below its 2020 carbon reduction target of 43 per cent. Of the 127 higher education institutions analysed, only 52 are projected to meet or exceed their target emissions.
The 20 Russell Group universities account for more than half of total sector emissions, with just two on track to meet their targets, the report says. Members of the group face unique challenges in reducing their emissions partly due to their energy intensive research facilities and the number of listed buildings across their estates.
London Metropolitan University topped this year’s league table, having reduced their absolute emissions by an impressive 57 per cent since 2005. Many smaller institutions, however, are identified as among the worst performers, with some seeing significant increases rather than reductions in their emissions.
Darren Chadwick, Managing Partner at Brite Green, said: “Universities across the country are demonstrating the benefits of implementing carbon management programmes, with some delivering incredible reductions."
But he added: “Many Universities are behind the curve and there are still some significant challenges for the sector to overcome to achieve their targets. Sustainability is a key strategic issue for Universities and leading institutions recognise that it needs to be managed across all aspects of university life - from teaching and research to investment strategy and estates management.”
Ian Patton, Chief Executive of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) commented, “Reports like this one don’t always make for easy reading. But it is through collaborations with sector partners such as Brite Green that we build a new understanding and case for building campuses and courses which will produce the graduates our future needs.”
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