Sustainability at the Heart of Yorkshire Higher Education Institutions

By Yorkshire Universities; Gemma Cross


Sustainability is at the heart of higher education institutions across Yorkshire, including Leeds Conservatoire – a new report reveals.

The guide is designed as a blueprint that can be used by other institutions wishing to drive student engagement with sustainability. It is the culmination of a 15-month £20,000 pilot project funded by the UPP Foundation which included an audit of the extent to which the 12 YU member institutions embedded sustainability in their curricula.

The guide demonstrates that Service Learning was being embraced in a raft of ways across a diverse set of HEIs, and the students across the region were gaining invaluable experience in helping to solve real-life sustainability related challenges in their communities.

As part of the pilot, all twelve YU member institutions were given £1,000 to use towards boosting Sustainability Service Learning activity and providing experiential learning opportunities. Leeds Conservatoire enabled its students to carry out environmental field recordings. Student feedback included the following:

“I really enjoyed exploring Leeds through a new lens and perspective, as well as having the opportunity to take field recordings through a variety of types of microphones (zoom, shotgun, hydrophone, contact). I found exploring the way the natural world changed as we drew closer to the centre of the city especially interesting and the discussions that it provoked highly useful in creating a greater understanding of our relationship with nature.”

A further £3,000 was assigned as prize money to a Multi-University Challenge Day, organised in December 2023, bringing together 36 students from across the twelve regional institutions, with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds. In groups students were tasked with developing ideas on how to engage more students with sustainability whilst studying – a topic that directly aligns with the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission Regional Climate Action Plan. The winners were invited to present at the annual Student Sustainability Research Conference.

Monika Antal, Assistant Director at Yorkshire Universities, said:

“YU is proud to have led this pilot and we hope this guide will inspire other institutions to learn from what works in our experiences across the region.

“The project demonstrated there is significant value for universities working in partnership to address sustainability challenges through Service Learning which benefits communities as well as offering students valuable real-world opportunities and experiential learning.

“We also discovered that community partners benefit from a diverse range of student perspectives and small amounts of funding can help to engage a wider range of students who would otherwise not have got involved in sustainability activities.”

Richard Brabner, Executive Chair at the UPP Foundation, added:

“Embedding local sustainability projects within the curriculum is great news for the towns and cities universities are from, great news for students who learn vital skills for the workplace, and great news for universities as it improves their reputation. We were proud to fund this project and warmly welcome the report from Yorkshire Universities. We hope it inspires more student sustainability initiatives across the higher education sector.”

Find out more and view the guide on the Yorkshire Universities website

By Yorkshire Universities; Gemma Cross

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