The Vice-Chancellor has signed the UN SDG accord. The accord, firstly, is to inspire, celebrate and advance the critical role that education has in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the value it brings to governments, business and wider society.
Secondly, the Accord is a commitment learning institutions are making to one another to do more to deliver the goals, to annually report on each signatory’s progress, and to do so in ways which share the learning with each other both nationally and internationally. An objective is that sector SDG reporting metrics will be presented at the annual UN High-Level Political Forum.
The University has moved into the top five in this year’s Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey, from sixth position last year, to fourth this year.
Every year, the Times Higher Education survey asks students across the UK to give their views about their university on a range of issues, from the quality of teaching and how well-structured the courses are, through to accommodation and support and welfare.
Our facilities, activities and societies and services such as security on campus, student welfare and support all feature particularly strongly. In the survey the students voted Leeds third for its facilities, including quality, convenience, library/opening hours, shop and bar amenities, and sports facilities.
Creating a hub on campus where our students can relax and enjoy great food and drink is incredibly important to us. Our offer on campus complements that provided by Leeds University Union. Over the last year we have opened two new cafes on campus, PURE café and the Edit Room, which provide modern and inviting environments for our students. We also have plans to build on this great work by refurbishing some of older cafes later this year.
“Hi, my name is Scott and I’ve just finished a summer project for the Sustainability and Educational Engagement teams at the University of Leeds. (I’ve also never done a blog post before, so this could be “interesting”!) I was – until 3 weeks ago – a full-time teacher, and I was asked to look at the provision of University resources aimed at schoolchildren with the aim being to have students engage more with sustainability and improve sustainability literacy. I was keen to help improve outreach at Leeds, and to get to do so with sustainability being at the forefront (a topic that I’m very passionate about) seemed too perfect an opportunity to not apply for.
I spent my first couple of days really trying to nail down what it was that people expected of me, meeting with seemingly half the university staff on campus, and gathering data to use at a later date! It was agreed that I’d design “two or three” lessons for teachers to download, or to be delivered by University staff in workshops, as well as looking at where Educational Engagement and Sustainability overlapped, suggesting how best to market the new resources, and writing a report that brought all of that together. In just three weeks! I hope that the 29(!) lessons I’ve created, with associated resources (including a board game), will be enjoyed by students across the UK and beyond and help to spread the word of what sustainability is and how it’s interwoven into society.
My time here has been brief but very enjoyable. The team here were all very welcoming (and 25p coffee helped!) and were very happy to chat about the project (and other things), and now I’ve reached the end, I’m sad that I won’t get to engage with people who clearly have a love for the vision of Sustainability, and won’t get to learn about how sustainability isn’t just about the colour green, saving the trees, or the birds and the bees!
To conclude, I’d like to thank Louise and Claire for the opportunity, Josh and Amanda for always being friendly faces, Mike for showing me the work on biodiversity on campus, Kelly for sorting it all out and telling me about her work on food on campus, Dom and Eric for trialling lessons and giving me feedback, Pre and John for discussing outreach, Jenny and Steven for telling me about their work with transport, James for telling me about water conservation, Tilly for educating me about Snapchat(!), and Gina for telling me about the work already done aimed at disadvantaged students (who are close to my heart).
In March we saw the return of the award-winning Creating Sustainable Futures (CSF) Discovery Module, an optional curricular module that students can take alongside their degree subject to broaden their knowledge on the social, economic, environmental and cultural aspects of sustainability.
A part of the module consists of a practical project the students must work through in groups. This year the project themes were given a refresh, updating the structure, data collection and content, enabling students to gain relevant information that would directly benefit the University and allow them to put their understanding of sustainability issues into context.
Semester 2’s CSF cohort of 41 students undertook either a Travel, Waste, Energy, Fairtrade or Community themed practical project as part of their assessment.
From assessing the University’s bicycle storage capacities and route accessibility, to gaining a better understanding of people’s perceptions of the University’s positive and negative impacts on society, teams collected data from all corners of campus, providing a snapshot review of the sustainability themes highlighted in the projects.
Some key findings from the students included;
Just under half of the unoccupied lecture theatres visited during the Energy project were found to still have their lights turned on.
Only 28% of 140 survey participants knew that the University of Leeds is a Fairtrade institution.
Bicycle storage sites reaching close or to full capacity included in front of LUU, the Social Sciences building and the University Main Entrance, with neighbouring parking facilities only reaching around half their capacity.
In the Waste project, the most consistently contaminated waste stream across all the locations audited was general waste, containing 40-50% contaminants that could have been recycled.
Leeds University Union was recorded as the most popular choice by surveyees when asked what parts of University campus facilitated community engagement, followed by The Edge and Parkinson Court.
This data will be collected year on year to build a timeline of sustainability recordings made by the students themselves, which not only provides hands-on experience of sustainability in practice but also presents the University with extremely useful information on current sustainability trends.
The module is just one of the ways we are helping deliver our Sustainability Strategy commitments of integrating sustainability into student learning. We intend to further increase the take-up of the module by students from all disciplines, helping them to understand the fundamental notions of sustainability, and in turn allow them to progress to other modules within the Creating Sustainable Futures theme and promote attributes reflecting that of being a sustainable citizen.
If you are interested in finding out more about Creating Sustainable Futures please click here.
The impact of food production and food waste on the climate is huge. As part of our commitment to reducing consumption of goods and services, we have worked with staff and students to set up some fantastic projects that they lead, dealing with issues of food waste and learning how to grow local, healthy food. Some of the project currently underway include the following:
At Central Village residences, a food waste collection scheme has been set up, using both staff and student volunteers on site. The scheme commenced after Easter 2016, and has collected 1.8 tonnes over two months, with the food waste going to an anaerobic digestion unit at Doncaster. The student volunteers will be returning to assist in September, and will help to promote the initiative to the new residents.
15 ex-battery hens were collected from the British Hen Welfare Trust in Summer 2015, and ten student volunteers recruited in October. The staff and student volunteers have learnt how to look after the hens on site at Devonshire Hall, and the volunteers also get the benefit of fresh eggs laid by the hens. The initiative won the CUBO 2016 Innovation Award for Excellence in Student Experience.
A Dig-In project was introduced on site at Lupton Residences, with student volunteers assisted by the Bardon Grange Walled Garden Project. Fruit trees, strawberries and herbs have been planted, with vegetables due planting in the Autumn. In addition, a student-led food composting scheme has been introduced on-site, using redundant compost bins obtained from a local school. The combined initiatives won this year’s Green Residences Award at the university.
If you would like to get involved with sustainability at your Halls of Residence contact email@example.com or your local Hall Rep.
“My current project with the Sustainability Service is looking at the way we can integrate sustainability into student dissertation topics; particularly those outside of traditional schools like Earth and Environment. By doing this we hope to catch a range of students from different disciplines thus increasing engagement across the university.
The project is trying to capture students who are currently preparing for to undertake their dissertation in either their final year of studies or at a postgraduate level.
In order to achieve this, I have contacted several schools across the university and have set up a workshop to facilitate this discussion. The workshop will be an interactive forum that allows students to share ideas and look at the ways that sustainability can be related to degree and topic choices. The session aims to help build and develop ideas for students. This can either be for students with a clear idea of their topic or indeed those who are still in the early planning stages. This session will demonstrate the flexibility of sustainability and how it is not designated to a particular subject area; it crosses disciplines and is relevant in a range of contexts.
It is hoped that we will see a range of students from different subjects decide to undertake a sustainability related dissertation in the near future!”