Universities have a responsibility to tackle environmental issues


The vast majority of potential international students believe universities aren’t doing enough to be eco-friendly, according to new research from QS, a leading global higher education company providing college rankings and solutions for recruiting, retention and international relations of students.

The unique survey of more than 3,500 respondents from around the world found that more than 90 percent of prospective students believe universities could do more to be environmentally sustainable. Respondents were asked to answer a series of questions about their perception of the sustainability of universities and how they expect universities to tackle climate change.

  • 94 percent of respondents believe universities could do more to be environmentally sustainable.
  • Almost 90 percent of those polled believe that a university should take additional steps to reduce its environmental impact.
  • 78 percent of those polled said universities are better than other industries such as finance and construction when it comes to being environmentally friendly.
  • 79% of those surveyed would be more likely to choose a degree if the content taught them to reduce their environmental impact.
  • Almost 60 percent of those polled believe that older generations have neglected the environment.

As part of the survey, QS also asked respondents what they most wanted to learn while studying at university. More than half of the applicants said that the efficient use of resources to limit the impact on the environment is a skill they most want to learn during their studies.

Protesters at the People’s Climate March highlight the need for action on climate change in Washington DC on April 29, 2017, President Trump’s 100th day in office. Source: Shutterstock

When asked what universities should do to improve their sustainability, respondents said increasing funding for research into sustainable initiatives is the most important activity for universities. Reducing single-use plastics and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill was the second and third most important activity, respectively.

The new research published on September 18 coincides with the global climate strike that begins today (September 20), where thousands of young people around the world are on the verge of leaving schools, colleges and universities. The strike is expected to take place within a week from Friday and will demand more action from governments and businesses to tackle climate change.

Commenting on the survey results, Paul Raybould, Director of Marketing and Market Intelligence at QS, said:

“We are delighted to publish QS’s first-ever 2019 Environmental Concerns Survey, which highlights the growing concerns of prospective students regarding the impact of climate change. Our new research shows that universities face the challenge of educating students about environmental issues with a greater emphasis on courses focused on climate change, as well as doing more to decarbonize through measures such as ” increased funding for research into sustainable initiatives.

“As a key partner to the UK higher education sector, we at QS will continue to play our role in providing information and services to the sector. UK universities have a fundamental role to play in supporting the government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050 and contributing to a sustainable future.

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