University sustainability rankings 2019
Unis are under increasing pressure to be kinder to the environment – but how many are actually 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 154 unis across the UK.
You'll see in our run-down of the results below that each university's been given a total percentage score. This is worked out based on their performance in 13 categories:
- Environmental policy and strategy
- Human resources for sustainability
- Environmental auditing and management systems
- Ethical investment
- Carbon management
- Workers' rights
- Sustainable food
- Staff and student engagement
- Education for sustainable development
- Energy sources
- Waste and recycling
- Carbon reduction
- 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!
University sustainability rankings 2020
Don't worry, this page isn't out of date! It's just that, thanks to the coronavirus crisis, People & Planet weren't able to publish their University League in 2020. So, for now, the 2019 table is the most recent edition available.
We're hoping they'll be able to release a new table in 2021, but we'll update this page when we know more.
Most sustainable universities in the UK
These are the 10 most sustainable universities in the UK:
- University of Gloucestershire – 80.6%
- Manchester Metropolitan University – 79.9%
- Nottingham Trent University – 75.2%
- Northumbria University – 66.6%
- City, University of London – 66.4%
- University of Worcester – 66.4%
- Coventry University – 65.9%
- University of Bedfordshire – 65.3%
- Aston University – 63%
- Swansea University – 63%
If you're wondering how the University of Gloucestershire managed to come out top in these rankings, it probably had something to do with scoring 100% for sustainable food, 100% for carbon reduction, 100% for environmental auditing and management systems, and (you guessed it!) 100% for carbon management. Wow.
The University of Gloucestershire's response
How did the University of Gloucestershire respond to being number one for sustainability?
In a joint statement, Dr Alex Ryan (Director of Sustainability) and Miriam Webb (Sustainability Engagement Manager) from the uni told us:
We are thrilled that we’ve topped the league table again!
Since the league started in 2007 – when it was optional to take part – the whole sustainability agenda in the university sector has moved on.
There is friendly competition among the growing number of universities of all sizes who are making moves in this agenda, which is pushing progress forwards all the time.
And, as they've alluded to, this isn't the first time the University of Gloucestershire have come first in this league...
We were last at the top of the league in 2008 and we have held a top 10 position since the start (we’re the only university who has held top 10 place on every run of the league) but the performance levels increase each year so it takes more to be ahead of the curve.
So for our university, as one of the original pace-setters, to still be able to compete with the larger players, is a great credit to the commitment and the results that we’ve achieved, which are now led by students, staff and partners across the university.
While places like the University of Gloucestershire 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 10 worst universities for sustainability:
- Stranmillis University College – 15.5%%
- The University College of Osteopathy – 15.4%
- Glasgow School of Art – 15.2%
- Royal Academy of Music – 14.7%
- University of Bolton – 14.3%
- Leeds Trinity University – 13.7%
- Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Drama – 13.1%
- Royal Veterinary College – 11.6%
- University of the Highlands and Islands – 10.2%
- Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance – 9.8%
Scoring 0% across eight categories, including sustainable food, workers' rights, sustainability staff and ethical investment, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance is placed 154th out of 154 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, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance 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||University of Gloucestershire||80.6%|
|2||Manchester Metropolitan University||79.9%|
|3||Nottingham Trent University||75.2%|
|5=||City, University of London||66.4%|
|5=||University of Worcester||66.4%|
|8||University of Bedfordshire||65.3%|
|11||University of Bristol||62.9%|
|13||London School of Economics and Political Science||60.5%|
|14||University of Greenwich||59.8%|
|15=||De Montfort University||59.6%|
|17||Canterbury Christ Church University||58.7%|
|19||University of the Arts, London||58.3%|
|21||King's College London||57.8%|
|22||University of Leeds||56.5%|
|23||Glasgow Caledonian University||56.4%|
|24||University of Bradford||56%|
|25||University of Brighton||55.9%|
|26=||Bath Spa University||55.7%|
|28||University of Reading||55%|
|29||University of East Anglia||54.6%|
|30||University of Wales Trinity Saint David||53.3%|
|31||SOAS, University of London||53.2%|
|32||University of Winchester||52.8%|
|33||Birmingham City University||51.9%|
|34||University of Leicester||51.4%|
|35||Birkbeck, University of London||51.3%|
|36||University of Exeter||50.4%|
|38||University of Edinburgh||49.3%|
|39||University of the West of England, Bristol||48.9%|
|40||University of Kent||48.2%|
|41||London Metropolitan University||48%|
|42||University of Central Lancashire||47.8%|
|43||Anglia Ruskin University||47.4%|
|44||University of Essex||47.2%|
|45||University of Oxford||46.9%|
|47=||University of Hull||46.6%|
|49||University of West London||46.4%|
|50||Sheffield Hallam University||45.5%|
|51||University of Sussex||45.3%|
|52=||London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine||44.9%|
|52=||Southampton Solent University||44.9%|
|55||Edinburgh Napier University||43.8%|
|56||University of Derby||43.7%|
|57||University of Ulster||43.5%|
|59||University of Manchester||43.1%|
|60||University of Warwick||42.9%|
|61||Leeds Beckett University||42.4%|
|62||University of Chester||42.2%|
|63||University of Westminster||42%|
|64||University of Salford||41.9%|
|65||London South Bank University||41.6%|
|66||University of Sheffield||41.4%|
|67||University of Cambridge||41.3%|
|68||Cardiff Metropolitan University||41.2%|
|69||Royal Agricultural University||40.4%|
|70||University of Bath||40.3%|
|71||Liverpool John Moores University||39.9%|
|72||Oxford Brookes University||39.8%|
|73||University of St Andrews||39.5%|
|75||University of Nottingham||39%|
|77||Guildhall School of Music and Drama||37.8%|
|78||Royal College of Music, London||37.4%|
|79||University of York||37.2%|
|80||University of Lincoln||36.8%|
|81||Buckinghamshire New University||35.9%|
|82||University for the Creative Arts||35.7%|
|83||Queen Mary University of London||35.1%|
|85=||University of Chichester||33.5%|
|85=||University of Glasgow||33.5%|
|88||Arts University Bournemouth||33%|
|89||University of Birmingham||32.8%|
|92||Edge Hill University||30.5%|
|94||University of Southampton||30.1%|
|95||University of Hertfordshire||29.7%|
|97||University of Stirling||28.7%|
|98||Bishop Grosseteste University||28.5%|
|99||University of Liverpool||28.2%|
|100||University of Sunderland||27.8%|
|101||Goldsmiths, University of London||27.7%|
|102||University of Northampton||27.5%|
|103||Queens University of Belfast||27.4%|
|104||University of Suffolk||27.1%|
|105=||University of East London||26.9%|
|107||University of Portsmouth||26.4%|
|109||University of Huddersfield||26%|
|110||Ravensbourne University London||25.9%|
|111||University of Cumbria||24.8%|
|112||Brunel University London||24.6%|
|113||University of Surrey||24.4%|
|114=||The Robert Gordon University||24.1%|
|114=||University of the West of Scotland||24.1%|
|116||University of Abertay Dundee||23.9%|
|117||University of Aberdeen||23.3%|
|118=||Royal Northern College of Music||23.2%|
|118=||University of Strathclyde||23.2%|
|120=||Courtauld Institute of Art||23.1%|
|120=||Liverpool Hope University||23.1%|
|120=||Royal Holloway, University of London||23.1%|
|123||University of Wolverhampton||22.4%|
|124||York St John University||21.3%|
|125||University of South Wales||21.2%|
|126||Leeds Arts University||20.8%|
|127||The Open University||20.4%|
|128=||The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama||20.1%|
|128=||Queen Margaret University||20.1%|
|130||Imperial College London||20%|
|131||Writtle University College||19.8%|
|133||Harper Adams University||19.2%|
|134||University of Dundee||19%|
|135||University College Birmingham||18.3%|
|136||St George's, University of London||18.1%|
|137||Norwich University of the Arts||17.2%|
|138=||The Institute of Cancer Research||17.1%|
|138=||St Mary's University College Belfast||17.1%|
|140=||London Business School||16.8%|
|140=||SustainLab, Royal College of Art||16.8%|
|140=||St Mary's University, Twickenham||16.8%|
|143||Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine||16.1%|
|144||University of St Mark and St John||15.9%|
|145||Stranmillis University College||15.5%|
|146||The University College of Osteopathy||15.4%|
|147||Glasgow School of Art||15.2%|
|148||Royal Academy of Music||14.7%|
|149||University of Bolton||14.3%|
|150||Leeds Trinity University||13.7%|
|151||Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance||13.1%|
|152||Royal Veterinary College||11.6%|
|153||University of the Highlands and Islands||10.2%|
|154||Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance||9.8%|
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 while you're out.
Buying a reusable container like a travel coffee cup will make a massive difference. After the initial purchases, you'll be able to fill them up for free with tap water, or get small discounts off hot drinks at some chain coffee shops 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. Check out our tips on how to keep food fresh for longer as well as which foods should go in the fridge if you want them to last longer.
It's also worth reading our guide on how to cut down on plastic and save money to see how to reduce your environmental impact without doing some serious damage to your bank balance instead.
The University of Gloucestershire's tips
With the University of Gloucestershire ranking first for sustainability in these league tables, we asked their sustainability team how students can reduce their impact on the environment without spending a fortune.
Dr Alex Ryan and Miriam Webb from the University of Gloucestershire's sustainability team told us:
We know students care deeply about sustainability and the long term big picture for communities across the globe, but students also have to wrestle with difficult financial pressures every day.
Sustainability has to bring the concerns of planet and purse together.
As part of their Live Smart programme, they offer advice to students on living sustainably for less. You can find their tips here.
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