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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.

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.

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.

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Most sustainable universities in the UK

These are the 10 most sustainable universities in the UK:

  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 – 74.5%
  6. University of Exeter – 72.2%
  7. University College London – 71.8%
  8. University of Greenwich – 70.7%
  9. University of Salford – 70.6%
  10. 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:

  1. Writtle University College – 10.2%
  2. Royal Northern College of Music – 8.2%
  3. London Business School – 7.6%
  4. Royal Veterinary College – 6.9%
  1. University College Birmingham – 6.9%
  1. Royal Academy of Music – 6.4%
  2. University of Sunderland – 4.8%
  3. Ravensbourne University London – 4.4%
  4. The University College of Osteopathy – 3.5%
  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.

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Full university league table for sustainability

RankingUniversityTotal score
1Cardiff Metropolitan University82.3%
2University of Bedfordshire81.3%
3Manchester Metropolitan University79.9%
4University of Reading75.8%
5University of the Arts, London (UAL)74.5%
6University of Exeter72.2%
7University College London (UCL)71.8%
8University of Greenwich70.7%
9University of Salford70.6%
10Bangor University70.3%
11Nottingham Trent University69.8%
12King's College London69.7%
13Swansea University68.4%
14University of Worcester66.9%
15Northumbria University66.8%
16University of Bristol66.1%
17University of West London65.3%
18Bath Spa University64.8%
19=Bournemouth University64.7%
19=De Montfort University64.7%
21Newcastle University64.4%
22University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE)64.1%
23London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)63.9%
24University of Hull63.8%
25Coventry University62.6%
26Birmingham City University62%
27Plymouth University61.8%
28Royal College of Music, London60%
29University of Kent59.9%
30Aston University59.4%
31=University of Essex58.9%
31=University of Wales Trinity Saint David58.9%
33University of Winchester58.4%
34Oxford Brookes University57%
35Queen Mary University of London56.9%
36Glyndwr University56.2%
37=Brunel University London56.1%
37=Edinburgh Napier University56.1%
39Durham University56%
40University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)54.2%
41University of Oxford54.1%
42Canterbury Christ Church University53.7%
43Sheffield Hallam University52.4%
44City, University of London51.8%
45Birkbeck, University of London51.7%
46Liverpool John Moores University51.1%
47University of Liverpool50.9%
48Keele University50.5%
49University of Leeds49.7%
50Cardiff University49.4%
51Glasgow Caledonian University49.3%
52University of Warwick49.2%
53London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine49.1%
54University of Portsmouth48.6%
55University of Huddersfield48.5%
56University of Manchester47.8%
57University of East Anglia47.7%
58University of Derby47.3%
59Leeds Beckett University47.2%
60University of Stirling46.7%
61Middlesex University46.4%
62University of Northampton46.3%
63Lancaster University46.1%
64Guildhall School of Music and Drama45.9%
65=University of Aberdeen44.6%
65=Anglia Ruskin University44.6%
67Cranfield University44.5%
68SOAS, University of London44.4%
69=University of York44.1%
69=Arts University Bournemouth44.1%
71=University of Brighton43.6%
71=Ulster University43.6%
73University of Leicester43.3%
74Kingston University43%
75=University of Glasgow42.8%
75=Solent University42.8%
77Loughborough University42.7%
78=University of Hertfordshire42.5%
78=University of Chester42.5%
80University of Westminster42.3%
81University of Edinburgh42.2%
82London Metropolitan University42%
83University of Sheffield41.7%
84University of Cambridge40.7%
85=York St John University39%
85=Bishop Grosseteste University39%
87University of Sussex38.6%
88=University of South Wales37.9%
88=University of St Andrews37.9%
90Buckinghamshire New University37.3%
91Staffordshire University37.2%
92University of Bradford36.7%
93University of Suffolk36.5%
94Queen's University of Belfast36.4%
95University of Nottingham36.1%
96University of Chichester35.5%
97University of Lincoln35.4%
98University of Strathclyde35.3%
99Teesside University35.2%
100St Mary's University, Twickenham35.1%
101University of Gloucestershire34.5%
102University for the Creative Arts34.3%
103University of St Mark and St John34%
104Royal Holloway, University of London33.6%
105=Imperial College London33.4%
105=Falmouth University33.4%
107University of Bath32.9%
108University of Surrey32.1%
109Robert Gordon University31.7%
110Liverpool Hope University31.3%
111Aberystwyth University31%
112University of Cumbria30.9%
113University of the West of Scotland (UWS)30.7%
114University of Abertay Dundee30.5%
115London South Bank University30.4%
116The Open University30.1%
117The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama29.7%
118University of Southampton28.9%
119Heriot-Watt University28.6%
120Leeds Trinity University28.5%
121=Goldsmiths, University of London27.2%
121=The Institute of Cancer Research27.2%
123Harper Adams University23.9%
124University of Dundee23.7%
125=University of Wolverhampton22.1%
125=Glasgow School of Art22.1%
127Newman University21.5%
128Edge Hill University21.2%
129Leeds Arts University20.6%
130=Queen Margaret University20.2%
130=Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance20.2%
132=University of East London19.9%
132=St. Mary's University College Belfast19.9%
134Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance19.7%
135Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine18.3%
136Royal College of Art16%
137Royal Agricultural University15.5%
138University of Birmingham15.4%
139Norwich University of the Arts14.8%
140Roehampton University13.6%
141St George's, University of London13.3%
142University of the Highlands and Islands11%
143University of Bolton10.5%
144Writtle University College10.2%
145Royal Northern College of Music8.2%
146London Business School7.6%
147=Royal Veterinary College6.9%
147=University College Birmingham6.9%
149Royal Academy of Music6.4%
150University of Sunderland4.8%
151Ravensbourne University London4.4%
152The University College of Osteopathy3.5%
153Stranmillis University College2.2%

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.

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How to live sustainably on a budget

Hands holding piggy bank

Credit: Watchara Ritjan – Shutterstock

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.


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