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University sustainability rankings 2023/24

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Universities 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.

plastic earth with thumbs up and down

Credit: Tetiana Shumbasova (background) – Shutterstock

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.

For more interesting insights, see our university student statistics page.

How the university sustainability league is calculated

These rankings were compiled by People & Planet and included 151 universities across the UK.

As you can see in the results below, each university has been given a total percentage score. This is worked out based on their performance in 14 categories:

  1. Policy and strategy
  2. Environmental auditing and management systems
  3. Managing carbon
  4. Sustainable food
  5. Ethical investment and banking
  6. Ethical careers and recruitment
  7. Staff and HR
  8. Workers' rights
  9. Staff and student engagement
  10. Education for sustainable development
  11. Energy sources
  12. Waste and recycling
  13. Carbon education
  14. 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.

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Most sustainable universities in the UK

These are the 10 most sustainable universities in the UK:

  1. University of Reading – 81.8%
  2. Manchester Metropolitan University – 77.6%
  3. University of Bedfordshire – 77.2%
  4. University of the Arts, London – 75.6%
  5. King's College London – 75.4%
  6. Cardiff Metropolitan University – 75.3%
  7. De Montfort University – 74.5%
  8. Swansea University – 73%
  9. University of Worcester – 72.6%
  10. Bournemouth University – 71.9%.

Wondering how the University of Reading managed to come out top in these rankings? They scored 100% for environmental auditing and management systems, 100% for staff and HR, 100% for sustainable food and 100% for education for sustainable development. Wow.

While places like the University of Reading are leading the way in terms of sustainability, others, in comparison, are doing much less. Let's hope your uni doesn't appear on the list below.

Least sustainable universities

These are the 11 worst universities for sustainability:

  1. London Business School – 14%
  1. University of Bolton – 14%
  1. SOAS, University of London – 13.9%
  2. University of Wolverhampton – 13.2%
  3. Royal Northern College of Music – 12.9%
  4. University of the Highlands and Islands – 12.6%
  5. University College Birmingham – 11.8%
  6. Writtle University College – 7.7%
  1. The University College of Osteopathy – 7.7%
  1. Ravensbourne University London – 5.2%
  2. Royal Veterinary College – 3.4%.

Scoring 0% across 10 categories, including sustainable food, sustainability staff and ethical investment, the Royal Veterinary College is placed 151st out of 151 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, the Royal Veterinary 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.

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Full university league table for sustainability

These are the full university sustainability rankings:

RankingUniversityTotal score
1University of Reading81.8%
2Manchester Metropolitan University77.6%
3University of Bedfordshire77.2%
4University of the Arts, London (UAL)75.6%
5King's College London75.4%
6Cardiff Metropolitan University75.3%
7De Montfort University74.5%
8Swansea University73%
9University of Worcester72.6%
10Bournemouth University71.9%
11University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE)71.7%
12University College London (UCL)71.4%
13University of West London71.2%
14Nottingham Trent University71.1%
15University of Salford70.9%
16University of Bristol70.3%
17Bath Spa University68.9%
18=Bangor University67.2%
18=University of Greenwich67.2%
20University of Plymouth66.8%
21=University of Exeter64.5%
21=University of Gloucestershire64.5%
23Coventry University63.9%
24Northumbria University63.8%
25London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)63.4%
26Durham University62.9%
27Birmingham City University62.7%
28Wrexham University62.2%
29University of Derby62.1%
30University of Wales Trinity Saint David61.1%
31Queen Mary University of London60.3%
32University of Kent60.2%
33University of Hull60.1%
34Anglia Ruskin University59.8%
35Royal College of Music, London59.7%
36Newcastle University59.6%
37University of Oxford59.4%
38University of Manchester58.5%
39University of Leeds58.2%
40Cranfield University57.9%
41=Canterbury Christ Church University57.4%
41=University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)57.4%
43=Aston University57.1%
43=Glasgow Caledonian University57.1%
43=Sheffield Hallam University57.1%
46University of Brighton56.2%
47University of Liverpool55.1%
48Brunel University London54.8%
49City, University of London54.6%
50Arts University Bournemouth53.1%
51=Cardiff University52.7%
51=Robert Gordon University52.7%
53Oxford Brookes University52.6%
54Staffordshire University52.2%
55Queen's University Belfast52%
56Edinburgh Napier University51.7%
57Liverpool John Moores University51.3%
58University of Essex50.7%
59Keele University50%
60Kingston University49.8%
61University of Huddersfield49.3%
62University of Sussex48.7%
63=University of Nottingham48.6%
63=University of Warwick48.6%
65University of Portsmouth48.5%
66University of Westminster48.4%
67The Open University47.8%
68=Leeds Beckett University47.6%
68=Loughborough University47.6%
70Lancaster University47.1%
71University of Hertfordshire46.8%
72=University of Cambridge46.7%
72=University of Leicester46.7%
74=University of Bath46.6%
74=University of Northampton46.6%
76University of York45.6%
77University of Lincoln45.4%
78University of St Andrews45.2%
79University of Sheffield45.1%
80University of Winchester44.8%
81The Institute of Cancer Research44.7%
82University of South Wales44%
83Birkbeck, University of London43.8%
84University of Chichester43.5%
85Buckinghamshire New University43.3%
86University of Suffolk43.2%
87University of Birmingham43.1%
88=University of Aberdeen43%
88=London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine43%
90University of Southampton42.9%
91London Metropolitan University42.4%
92Solent University42.1%
93London South Bank University41.8%
94University of Bradford41.4%
95University of East Anglia41.2%
96University for the Creative Arts41%
97University of Strathclyde40.9%
98Imperial College London40.4%
99=University of Edinburgh39.4%
99=Teesside University39.4%
101University of Cumbria39.3%
102Bishop Grosseteste University39%
103St Mary's University, Twickenham38.7%
194University of Surrey38.4%
105=Ulster University37%
105=University of St Mark and St John37%
107=University of Stirling35.1%
107=Falmouth University35.1%
109University of the West of Scotland (UWS)34.9%
110University of Glasgow34.5%
111University of Sunderland34.2%
112Royal Holloway, University of London33.9%
113University of Chester33.8%
114=The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama33.5%
114=Leeds Trinity University33.5%
116Royal College of Art32.7%
117=Aberystwyth University30.6%
117=University of Dundee30.6%
119Norwich University of the Arts30.1%
120Glasgow School of Art29.7%
121York St John University29.6%
122University of East London29.5%
123Liverpool Hope University28.2%
124Abertay University28.1%
125Harper Adams University26.5%
126Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance26.2%
127Goldsmiths, University of London26.1%
128St George's, University of London25.8%
129St. Mary's University College Belfast25.3%
130Roehampton University23.1%
131Birmingham Newman University22.4%
132Middlesex University22.3%
133Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine21.1%
134Queen Margaret University21%
135Edge Hill University20.9%
136Heriot-Watt University20.2%
137Leeds Arts University20.1%
138Royal Agricultural University18.3%
139Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance16.5%
140Royal Academy of Music14.9%
141=London Business School14%
141=University of Bolton14%
143SOAS, University of London13.9%
144University of Wolverhampton13.2%
145Royal Northern College of Music12.9%
146University of the Highlands and Islands12.6%
147University College Birmingham11.8%
148=Writtle University College7.7%
148=The University College of Osteopathy7.7%
150Ravensbourne University London5.2%
151Royal Veterinary College3.4%

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. Some coffee shops also give you a discount for using your own cup (find out more in our guide to getting free coffee).

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.

Laura Brown

WRITTEN BY Laura Brown

Laura Brown, Head of Editorial at Save the Student, is an award-winning writer with expertise in student money. She project manages influential national student surveys and has presented findings to MPs in Westminster. As an expert on student issues, Laura has been quoted by the BBC, the Guardian, Metro and more.
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