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Green universities 2023 results

University students are often champions of sustainability, so it makes sense that the universities that they attend are doing their part to make a positive difference on the environment. So by delving into the universities' eco-friendly actions, we've established which can be considered true green universities.
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Universities across the UK are once again assessed for their sustainability credentials for the annual Green University Report.

Uswitch sought to see if the UK’s education establishments are doing enough to be considered green universities. This annual study is designed to see which universities are leading the way in terms of green initiatives and renewable energy.

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This information was obtained with a Freedom of Information request to 133 universities. We asked:

1. Who is your main energy supplier? (Please provide the supplier name individually for both gas and electricity if applicable).

2. Are you on a green/renewable energy tariff with them? (Please answer Yes/No individually for both gas and electric if applicable).

3. Do you have any renewable installations across your buildings? If yes, please state which of the following you have and any others not listed:

- Solar panels

- Solar thermal panels

- Wind turbines

- Air source heat pump

- Ground source heat pump

- Biomass systems

- Hydroelectric systems

- Other

4. Do you have any fully electric vehicles on your fleet of vehicles for staff (not including hybrids)? If yes, please state how many.

5. Do you currently employ anyone who oversees the implementation of sustainability strategies at the university (for example, a “Sustainability Officer”)?

6. Do you provide workshops/lessons on sustainable practices for your students? If yes, please provide any examples you’d like to shout about.

7. Are there any eco-friendly initiatives across your buildings such as bike schemes, recycling initiatives, etc? If so, please state them.

We have subsequently split the universities into four tiers based on their answers to the above questions.

Platinum tier: Top committed green universities

Those who scored positively in seven out of seven criteria.

University nameGreen electricity tariffGreen gas tariffRenewable installationsElectric vehiclesSustainability employeeWorkshopsEco-friendly initiatives
Edge Hill UniversityYYYYYYY
Wrexham Glyndŵr UniversityYYYYYYY
Goldsmiths, University of LondonYYYYYYY
University of BirminghamYYYYYYY
University of ChichesterYYYYYYY
University St AndrewsYYYYYYY

Encouragingly, six universities of the 111 that responded came back with seven positive notes on the questions we asked.

Among these, Wrexham Glyndŵr University has the most on-site renewable installations featuring solar panels, solar thermal, an air source heat pump and a hydroelectric system. The most popular renewable installation across this tier is solar panels, with all of the universities featuring them on campus.

Find out more about renewable energy sources.

Electric vehicles are part of all of these universities' vehicle fleets. However, a couple have gone above and beyond, with the University of Birmingham boasting 44 electric vehicles, of which 39 are vans and four are cars. The University of St. Andrews has a total of 22 EVs consisting of six electric cars, 14 vans and two tractors. All of the universities in this tier have at least two electric vehicles as part of their fleet.

Each of these universities employs someone or a team to oversee its sustainability practices as well as offering workshops or classes to its students and staff. The University of Chichester states that it has a strategic objective to ensure that all staff and students can access carbon literacy training by 2025, and Edge Hill University is running a sustainability week in November 2023.

Eco-friendly initiatives are run by all of the universities, but the University of Chichester runs events such as “Green Weeks” which has been organised by its student union in conjunction with the university for the past three years. It is also working towards Responsible Futures Accreditation and won a gold award for having a hedgehog-friendly campus in February 2023. Goldsmiths, on the other hand, is ending the use of pesticides and herbicides as well as planting and maintaining trees on campus.

It's more important than ever to make sure that our energy usage is as green as possible. Read our green energy guides to understand how you can make changes around the home.

Green universities - Hedgehog - image module

What is a hedgehog-friedly campus award?

Hedgehog Friendly Campus is a national award scheme designed to protect hedgehogs, enhance their habitat and create awareness, funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. 

Only one of the six universities in this tier is a Russell Group member (University of Birmingham).

Gold tier: Greatly committed green universities

Those who scored positively in six out of seven criteria.

University nameGreen electricity tariffGreen gas tariffRenewable installationsElectric vehiclesSustainability employeeWorkshopsEco-friendly initiatives
Bangor UniversityYNYYYYY
Bath Spa UniversityYNYYYYY
Birmingham City UniversityYYNYYYY
Canterbury Christ Church UniversityYNYYYYY
Cardiff MetYNYYYYY
Cardiff UniversityYNYYYYY
City University LondonYNYYYYY
Coventry UniversityYNYYYYY
Edinburgh Napier UniversityYNYYYYY
Heriot-Watt UniversityYNYYYYY
Kingston UniversityYNYYYYY
Lancaster UniversityYNYYYYY
Leeds Beckett UniversityYYYYYYY
Liverpool John MooresYNYYYYY
Manchester Metropolitan UniversityYNYYYYY
Newcastle UniversityYNYYYYY
Northumbria UniversityYNYYYYY
Nottingham Trent UniversityYNYYYYY
Queen Mary LondonYNYYYYY
Robert Gordon UniversityYNYYYYY
School of Oriental and African StudiesYYYNYYY
Southampton Solent UniversityYNYYYYY
Teeside UniversityYNYYYYY
University of AberdeenYNYYYYY
University of BrightonYNYYYYY
University of BristolYNYYYYY
University of CambridgeYNYYYYY
University of Central LancashireYNYYYYY
University of EdinburghYNYYYYY
University of EssexYNYYYYY
University of ExeterYNYYYYY
University of GloucestershireYNYYYYY
University of GreenwichYNYYYYY
University of HullYNYYYYY
University of LeedsYNYYYYY
University of LincolnYNYYYYY
University of ManchesterYNYYYYY
University of NorthamptonYNYYYYY
University of NottinghamYNYYYYY
University of OxfordYNYYYYY
University of ReadingYNYYYYY
University of South WalesYNYYYYY
University of StirlingYNYYYYY
University of StrathclydeYNYYYYY
University of SunderlandYNYYYYY
University of SussexYYNYYYY
University of Wales, Trinity St DavidYNYYYYY
University of WarwickYNYYYYY
University of West England, BristolYNYYYYY
University of WinchesterYNYYYYY
University of WolverhamptonYNYYYYY
University of WorcesterYNYYYYY
University of YorkYNYYYYY

53 universities feature in the Gold Tier out of 111 respondents.

25% of the universities in the Gold Tier are Russell Group members: Cardiff University, Newcastle University, Queen Mary University of London, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Leeds, University of Manchester, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, University of Warwick and the University of York.

Only two universities in this tier do not have any renewable installations on campus (Birmingham City University and the University of Sussex) and the School of Oriental and African Studies doesn’t have any electric vehicles as part of its fleet. However, for all of the other universities in this tier, not having a renewable gas tariff is the common denominator.

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Universities in this tier overall have excellent sustainability credentials, with all of them opting to be on a green electricity tariff and employing at least one person to oversee sustainability practices while offering workshops and implementing eco-friendly initiatives for staff and students.

Looking at the Gold Tier’s electric vehicles, the University of Warwick has an astonishing 70 electric vans while the University of Cambridge has 38 electric light commercial vehicles, 12 mechanical handlers, three utility vehicles and three cars. Four universities in this tier also operate electric golf buggies as a more novel way of getting around campus.

All of the universities apart from one (Leeds Beckett University) have stated that they are on a renewable energy tariff with their electricity supplier - EDF Energy supplies 37 of them. For gas, Corona is the most popular energy supplier, with 29 educational institutes using it. Birmingham City University, Leeds Beckett, the University of Sussex, and the School of Oriental and African Studies are the only universities in this tier that say they are on a green gas tariff.

Interestingly, Cardiff Metropolitan University and Lancaster University are the only two universities that stated they receive some of their energy from onsite wind turbines. In comparison, out of the 51 establishments in this tier, 49 have solar panels, 29 have an air source heat pump, and 25 have a ground source heat pump.

However, it's positive to see that all of these universities in the Gold Tier have green workshops and eco-friendly initiatives in place. To highlight a few, Kingston University offers a “Revive” workshop where students can learn to mend their own clothes. At Bangor University, all new students receive a mandatory sustainability segment in their mandatory induction. In some buildings of the Robert Gordon University, the urinals have now been converted to be waterless to save water.

Ben Gallizzi, energy expert, commented on the positive news of universities:

“As thought leaders, it’s great to see so many universities taking charge over their sustainability through various actions.”

“From simple measures, such as choosing to receive their energy through  renewable energy tariffs and offering recycling facilities, to implementing their own electric car fleets and installing renewable energy sources on campus. UK universities are approaching a greener way of being in a multifaceted way, understanding that every little helps when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.”

“And while not every university has the same resources, it’s good to see that almost all are willing to go green in some way or another. It’s a great example to set for students, staff, and the wider community.”

“For those looking at making changes within the home, there are many free energy efficient changes that can be implemented to help the environment whilst also saving money on energy bills.”

Silver tier: Adequately committed green universities

Those who scored positively in five out of seven criteria.

University nameGreen electricity tariffGreen gas tariffRenewable installationsElectric vehiclesSustainability employeeWorkshopsEco-friendly initiatives
Abertay UniversityNNYYYYY
Anglia Ruskin UniversityNNYYYYY
Aston UniversityNNYYYYY
Brunel UniversityNNYYYYY
Cranfield UniversityNNYYYYY
De Montford UniversityNNYYYYY
Guildhall School of Music and DramaYNYNYYY
Kings College LondonYNYNYYY
London Business SchoolYNYYYNY
London School of Economics and Political ScienceYNYNYYY
London South Bank UniversityYNNYYYY
Loughborough UniversityNNYYYYY
Middlesex UniversityNNYYYYY
Oxford Brookes UniversityNNYYYYY
Plymouth UniversityNNYYYYY
Royal HollowayYNYYNYY
Royal Veterinary CollegeYNYNYYY
Sheffield Hallam UniversityNNYYYYY
Swansea UniversityNNYYYYY
University College LondonYNYNYYY
University of BathNNYYYYY
University of BradfordNNYYYYY
University of DerbyNNYYYYY
University of East AngliaNNYYYYY
University of East LondonYNYNYYY
University of GlasgowNNYYYYY
University of HuddersfieldNNYYYYY
University of KentNNYYYYY
University of LiverpoolYNYNYYY
University of LondonYNYNYYY
University of LondonYNYNYYY
University of PortsmouthYNYNYYY
University of SalfordNNYYYYY
University of UlsterNNYYYYY
University of WestminsterYNYNYYY
York St John UniversityYNYYYNY

35 universities, which rank in the Silver Tier, achieved five positive marks out of the available categories.

21 universities - a surprisingly high number - are not on a renewable energy tariff for their electricity. However, every university apart from one (London South Bank University) in the Silver Tier does have some form of renewable installation on site. Only four universities in this tier do not have solar panels: Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London South Bank University, the Royal Veterinary College, and the University of Westminster. However, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama does have wind turbines, along with only three other universities in the tier.

Just under 29% of the universities in this tier don’t use any electric vehicles. However, those that do have an impressive number and a range of types. For example, the  University of Kent has 33 electric vehicles in total, including six electric buggies, 12 e-power trucks, and 15 vans. Loughborough University isn’t far behind with 30 electric vans as part of its fleet. Brunel University has vehicles specifically for use on campus which are not road legal: two non-road legal electric vans and eight non-road legal electric buggies.

With regards to the sustainable workshops and initiatives on offer by the universities in this tier, the London School of Economics and Political Science offers a clothes mending workshop and a webinar on energy saving tips. Interestingly, the Royal Veterinary College has animal and clinic-specific programmes, such as the reduction in single-use plastics in animal hospitals, as well as workshops on soil sampling, worm counts, and biodiversity to look at the impact of farming. It also keeps bee hives on-site. London Business School instructs office closures in periods of low utilisation in order to be more energy-efficient. 

Bronze tier: Partially committed green universities

Those who scored positively in four or fewer out of seven criteria.

University nameGreen electricity tariffGreen gas tariffRenewable installationsElectric vehiclesSustainability employeeWorkshopsEco-friendly initiatives
Birbeck, University of LondonYNNNYYY
Glasgow Caledonian UniversityYNNNYYY
Liverpool Hope UniversityNNYNYNY
Open UniversityNNYNYYY
Queen Margaret UniversityNNNNNYY
Royal Academy of MusicNNNNNYY
Royal College of ArtNNYNYYY
St George's, University of LondonYNYNNYY
The Royal Central School of Speech and DramaYNYNNNY
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and DanceYYNNYNN
University of CumbriaNNYYNYY
University of HertfordshireNNYNYYY

Only 12 universities appear in the Bronze Tier category. All of these universities still boast some positive marks across the green criteria but are missing some simple opportunities to boost their rankings.

Liverpool Hope University, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance don’t offer any green workshops for their students or staff. There is also no one employed by Queen Margaret University, the Royal Academy of Music, St George's: University of London, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and the University of Cumbria to oversee the implementation of green or sustainable practices.

The University of Cumbria breaks the mould for this tier by being the only university to have electric vehicles as part of its fleet (five in total).

Although the Open University doesn’t have an electric vehicle fleet, it does offer an extensive array of workshops and initiatives. They host events which include a course called Climate Change: Transforming your Organisation for Sustainability. It also has “Go Green Champions” across all its locations, supporting local 'hard to recycle' schemes, 'big switch off' campaigns and introducing OU Sustainability Week.

The Royal College of Art’s new flagship Battersea campus has achieved BREEAM “Excellent” rating, while the Royal Academy of Music keeps bees.

What is BREEAM?

BREEAM stands for “Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method”. BREEAM is a science-based suite of validation and certification systems for sustainably built environments.

All of the universities in this tier are with EDF Energy for electricity apart from Birbeck: University of London, which is with Smartest Energy. Corona also dominates as the gas supplier, supplying eight universities in this tier. The remaining four universities receive their gas from Total Energies.

Green university findings

Green universities - Grass - Image module

In total across the study, 103 universities or 94% have renewable installations on campus. Solar panels have proven to be the most popular with 99 universities stating that they have them. 53 have at least one air source heat pump, and 47 use solar thermal panels to heat water. Ground source heat pumps aren’t as popular as air versions, with only 39 using them. Wind turbines on the other hand are used by seven universities, and only two universities have a hydroelectric system. 

71% of the universities are on a green or renewable energy tariff with their energy supplier. However, only 11 universities are on a green gas tariff. 81 universities use EDF Energy, making it the most popular electricity supplier. 

Read more on EDF Energy

Electric vehicles are part of 85 university fleets, while other universities said they intend to invest in them in the near future.

90%, or 100 out of 111, universities stated that they specifically employ at least one person to oversee the implementation of green and sustainable practices across the university. 102 universities hold sustainability workshops or classes for their students or staff. 12 universities highlighted their achievement of being a hedgehog-friendly campus.

There is now a wide range of renewable energy installations that you can look into investing in for your own home, but the easiest way to get started is to see how you can reduce your carbon footprint with this handy carbon footprint calculator.

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