University sustainability rankings 2022/23
Unis are under increasing pressure to be kinder to the environment. But how many are taking action? These university rankings reveal the best and worst places for sustainability.
The general UK university rankings can tell us a lot. But, when it comes to some of the issues we really care about, like (a big one!) the planet, they can fall a bit short.
If you've been wondering how sustainable your university is, wonder no more. Here are the comprehensive results charting the environmental and ethical performance of unis in the UK.
How the university sustainability league is calculated
These rankings were compiled by People & Planet and included 153 universities across the UK.
As you can see in the results below, each university's been given a total percentage score. This is worked out based on their performance in 14 categories:
- Environmental policy and strategy
- Environmental auditing and management systems
- Managing carbon
- Sustainable food
- Ethical investment and banking
- Ethical careers and recruitment
- Staff and HR
- Workers' rights
- Staff and student engagement
- Education for sustainable development
- Energy sources
- Waste and recycling
- Carbon education
- Water reduction.
Each university's scores across all categories are combined, with some categories carrying more weight than others. An overall total percentage is calculated, and the higher the total percentage, the higher the ranking.
Most sustainable universities in the UK
These are the 10 most sustainable universities in the UK:
- Cardiff Metropolitan University – 82.3%
- University of Bedfordshire – 81.3%
- Manchester Metropolitan University – 79.9%
- University of Reading – 75.8%
- University of the Arts, London – 74.5%
- University of Exeter – 72.2%
- University College London – 71.8%
- University of Greenwich – 70.7%
- University of Salford – 70.6%
- Bangor University – 70.3%.
If you're wondering how Cardiff Metropolitan University managed to come out top in these rankings, it probably had something to do with scoring 100% for environmental auditing and management systems, 100% for staff and HR, 100% for sustainable foods, 100% for education for sustainable development and (you guessed it!) 100% for carbon reduction. Wow.
Cardiff Metropolitan University's response
How did Cardiff Metropolitan University respond to being number one for sustainability?
The university's President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cara Aitchison, told us:
We describe our Cardiff Met community as being ‘values driven’ and so focusing on the development of our ethical and environmental performance is wholly aligned with this approach. The entire Cardiff Met community is delighted to have been named the number one university in the UK for sustainability. I wish to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly to contribute to this significant national achievement.
This week sees the launch of Strategy 2030, our new strategic plan, which places sustainability firmly at its heart by identifying ‘Low Carbon Futures’ as one of five strategic priorities for the university. One of our other priorities is the development of ‘Campus 2030’ with major investment in our university estate resulting from a Master Plan that is currently being finalised and which includes ambitious targets for the creation of a net zero carbon estate by 2030. As we embark on these next steps it is especially pleasing to know how well we are currently performing in comparison to over 150 universities in the UK.
Our students can be assured they are part of a community which takes its responsibility to the environment and sustainability seriously and which has and will continue to make further strides over the coming years so that we all play our part in tackling the climate emergency.
While places like Cardiff Metropolitan University are leading the way in terms of sustainability, others, in comparison, are doing much (much!) less. Let's hope your uni doesn't appear on the list below.
10 least sustainable universities
These are the 10 worst universities for sustainability:
- Writtle University College – 10.2%
- Royal Northern College of Music – 8.2%
- London Business School – 7.6%
- Royal Veterinary College – 6.9%
- University College Birmingham – 6.9%
- Royal Academy of Music – 6.4%
- University of Sunderland – 4.8%
- Ravensbourne University London – 4.4%
- The University College of Osteopathy – 3.5%
- Stranmillis University College – 2.2%.
Scoring 0% across 12 categories, including sustainable food, sustainability staff and ethical investment, Stranmillis University College is placed 153rd out of 153 universities.
But, it's important to note that, if People & Planet can't find information for some categories (i.e. if the university hasn't made some info public), they will give them a score of zero. So, we hope, Stranmillis University College may be a bit more sustainable than the results suggest.
If you've not seen your university yet, check out the full university league table for sustainability below.
Full university league table for sustainability
|1||Cardiff Metropolitan University||82.3%|
|2||University of Bedfordshire||81.3%|
|3||Manchester Metropolitan University||79.9%|
|4||University of Reading||75.8%|
|5||University of the Arts, London (UAL)||74.5%|
|6||University of Exeter||72.2%|
|7||University College London (UCL)||71.8%|
|8||University of Greenwich||70.7%|
|9||University of Salford||70.6%|
|11||Nottingham Trent University||69.8%|
|12||King's College London||69.7%|
|14||University of Worcester||66.9%|
|16||University of Bristol||66.1%|
|17||University of West London||65.3%|
|18||Bath Spa University||64.8%|
|19=||De Montfort University||64.7%|
|22||University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE)||64.1%|
|23||London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)||63.9%|
|24||University of Hull||63.8%|
|26||Birmingham City University||62%|
|28||Royal College of Music, London||60%|
|29||University of Kent||59.9%|
|31=||University of Essex||58.9%|
|31=||University of Wales Trinity Saint David||58.9%|
|33||University of Winchester||58.4%|
|34||Oxford Brookes University||57%|
|35||Queen Mary University of London||56.9%|
|37=||Brunel University London||56.1%|
|37=||Edinburgh Napier University||56.1%|
|40||University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)||54.2%|
|41||University of Oxford||54.1%|
|42||Canterbury Christ Church University||53.7%|
|43||Sheffield Hallam University||52.4%|
|44||City, University of London||51.8%|
|45||Birkbeck, University of London||51.7%|
|46||Liverpool John Moores University||51.1%|
|47||University of Liverpool||50.9%|
|49||University of Leeds||49.7%|
|51||Glasgow Caledonian University||49.3%|
|52||University of Warwick||49.2%|
|53||London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine||49.1%|
|54||University of Portsmouth||48.6%|
|55||University of Huddersfield||48.5%|
|56||University of Manchester||47.8%|
|57||University of East Anglia||47.7%|
|58||University of Derby||47.3%|
|59||Leeds Beckett University||47.2%|
|60||University of Stirling||46.7%|
|62||University of Northampton||46.3%|
|64||Guildhall School of Music and Drama||45.9%|
|65=||University of Aberdeen||44.6%|
|65=||Anglia Ruskin University||44.6%|
|68||SOAS, University of London||44.4%|
|69=||University of York||44.1%|
|69=||Arts University Bournemouth||44.1%|
|71=||University of Brighton||43.6%|
|73||University of Leicester||43.3%|
|75=||University of Glasgow||42.8%|
|78=||University of Hertfordshire||42.5%|
|78=||University of Chester||42.5%|
|80||University of Westminster||42.3%|
|81||University of Edinburgh||42.2%|
|82||London Metropolitan University||42%|
|83||University of Sheffield||41.7%|
|84||University of Cambridge||40.7%|
|85=||York St John University||39%|
|85=||Bishop Grosseteste University||39%|
|87||University of Sussex||38.6%|
|88=||University of South Wales||37.9%|
|88=||University of St Andrews||37.9%|
|90||Buckinghamshire New University||37.3%|
|92||University of Bradford||36.7%|
|93||University of Suffolk||36.5%|
|94||Queen's University of Belfast||36.4%|
|95||University of Nottingham||36.1%|
|96||University of Chichester||35.5%|
|97||University of Lincoln||35.4%|
|98||University of Strathclyde||35.3%|
|100||St Mary's University, Twickenham||35.1%|
|101||University of Gloucestershire||34.5%|
|102||University for the Creative Arts||34.3%|
|103||University of St Mark and St John||34%|
|104||Royal Holloway, University of London||33.6%|
|105=||Imperial College London||33.4%|
|107||University of Bath||32.9%|
|108||University of Surrey||32.1%|
|109||Robert Gordon University||31.7%|
|110||Liverpool Hope University||31.3%|
|112||University of Cumbria||30.9%|
|113||University of the West of Scotland (UWS)||30.7%|
|114||University of Abertay Dundee||30.5%|
|115||London South Bank University||30.4%|
|116||The Open University||30.1%|
|117||The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama||29.7%|
|118||University of Southampton||28.9%|
|120||Leeds Trinity University||28.5%|
|121=||Goldsmiths, University of London||27.2%|
|121=||The Institute of Cancer Research||27.2%|
|123||Harper Adams University||23.9%|
|124||University of Dundee||23.7%|
|125=||University of Wolverhampton||22.1%|
|125=||Glasgow School of Art||22.1%|
|128||Edge Hill University||21.2%|
|129||Leeds Arts University||20.6%|
|130=||Queen Margaret University||20.2%|
|130=||Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance||20.2%|
|132=||University of East London||19.9%|
|132=||St. Mary's University College Belfast||19.9%|
|134||Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance||19.7%|
|135||Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine||18.3%|
|136||Royal College of Art||16%|
|137||Royal Agricultural University||15.5%|
|138||University of Birmingham||15.4%|
|139||Norwich University of the Arts||14.8%|
|141||St George's, University of London||13.3%|
|142||University of the Highlands and Islands||11%|
|143||University of Bolton||10.5%|
|144||Writtle University College||10.2%|
|145||Royal Northern College of Music||8.2%|
|146||London Business School||7.6%|
|147=||Royal Veterinary College||6.9%|
|147=||University College Birmingham||6.9%|
|149||Royal Academy of Music||6.4%|
|150||University of Sunderland||4.8%|
|151||Ravensbourne University London||4.4%|
|152||The University College of Osteopathy||3.5%|
|153||Stranmillis University College||2.2%|
While we've noticed some big movements in the table compared to last year's, there is still work to be done.
J Clarke, Co-Director of Climate Campaigns at People & Planet said:
With significant movement in the 2022/23 People & Planet University League ranking it is clear that complacency is not an option for institutions seeking to perform well on ethics and sustainability criteria.
One key area that UK universities must take action on is ending recruitment relationships with oil, gas and mining companies, highlighted by only 3% of the sector having implemented such policies in the year’s ranking. It is vital that we end the recruitment pipeline into the industries most responsible for the climate crisis, and universities meet that challenge urgently.
How to live sustainably on a budget
Sometimes, it can feel like an impossible task to save the environment and your bank account. But, thankfully, there are ways to live more sustainably without spending a fortune.
One easy way to cut down on plastic waste, and save money in the process, is by no longer buying cups of coffee or bottled drinks.
Buying a reusable container like a travel coffee cup will make a big difference. After the initial purchases, you'll be able to fill them up for free with tap water. Some coffee shops also give you a discount for using your own cup.
Also, you can avoid food waste (and the extra cost of replacing out-of-date food) with some careful changes to how you buy and store food.
On top of this, make sure you know what you can and can't recycle.
There are even things you can recycle for money, such as clothes, plastic bags, mobile phones and more.
Find out more in our guide to the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. The tips can help you save (or even make) money.