The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is working on an ambitious plan to maximise its contribution to Bristol’s year as European Green Capital.
UWE Bristol was instrumental in helping the city win the successful bid for the city region for 2015, through Professor Martin Bigg (former Chair of Bristol Green Capital Partnership) and Professor James Longhurst, UWE Assistant Vice Chancellor (Environment and Sustainability). Professor Longhurst is now developing the UWE’s plans for a successful year and the long term impact of the sustainability objectives.
Key to these plans is an ambitious University-wide initiative to embed understanding and awareness of sustainability within the curriculum across all subjects at the University.
Working with the Students’ union (UWESU) and academic departments, Professor Longhurst is leading an initiative to make engagement with the ideas behind sustainability, an aspect of the learning of all students. Professor Longhurst says, “The education of our students is the biggest opportunity we have to encourage awareness and action for a more sustainable future. We send thousands of graduates out into the world every year, and whether they understand and are prepared to tackle the big issues is our real legacy. We are embedding sustainability as an aspect of our teaching in all subjects.”
Professor Longhurst chaired the joint development group tasked with preparing national guidance on s education for sustainable development. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) has recently published new guidance for universities and colleges on education for sustainable development (ESD), with the aim of helping equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to work and live sustainably.
Professor Longhurst says, “The Green Capital Year provides a focus for many of the sustainable initiatives within the University. It is also an opportunity for UWE to contribute to the city’s environmental agenda, and to ensure a positive legacy from 2015 for the University’s sustainability agenda.
“Many of our students are signing up to a new UWE scheme for ‘green leaders’, whose role it is to challenge and inspire others at the university to make positive changes. Over seventy students have now signed up to the scheme across all campus locations.
The Green Leader Coordinator in the Students’ Union, Laura-Kate Howells said, “Our role is to encourage those at UWE to keep making positive changes and to help the University stay on track to its sustainability objectives. Our green leaders can help to inspire and engage students.”
The Green leaders are a UWESU led group who are engaged in range of sustainability projects from establishing bee hives onto campus, campaigning for the installation of green walls and exploring water conservation issues.
In addition to this work there will be student volunteering, internship opportunities and seed corn funding for student projects that contribute to sustainability.
Several major conferences are also planned including: Cities of Health, Managing Air Quality in the Urban Environment and Water Security. As well as these conferences there will be Green Capital Public Lectures, Research Seminars and student workshops. UWE and the University of Bristol will collaborate on a range of Green capital initiatives during 2015 including organising an international Education for Sustainable Development conference.
Bristol was designated the European Green Capital for 2015 at a ceremony in Nantes in June 2013. The city beat Brussels, Glasgow and Ljubljana to the award. Bristol follows current award holder, Copenhagen, Denmark, and previous winners include Nantes, France (2013), Vitoria-Gastiez, Spain (2012), Hamburg, Germany (2011), and Stockholm, Sweden (2010). The title rewards cities which consistently achieve high environmental standards and are committed to further improvement and sustainability.