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THE UK: Destination Guides

The UK's top green universities

Sustainability is on the radar for a lot of universities in the UK. We explore universities that are really making a difference to the environment.

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As news of the climate crisis makes headlines more than ever before, companies and countries worldwide have all made pledges to become more sustainable as soon as possible. Universities are no exception to this, and some universities in the UK have gone that extra step when it comes to sustainable practices.  


All of these universities were rated highly in the ‘climate action’ and 'sustainable cities and communities' measures of The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings (THE). The 'climate action' measure focuses on:  


“a university's research on climate change, their use of energy and their preparations for dealing with the consequences of climate change”. 


The THE Impact Rankings are evaluated using the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Universities are judged by their performance against these goals, showing their commitment to a greener future. 


Here are just a few of the greenest universities in the UK


THE Climate Action ranking: 5th in the UK 


The University of Manchester is an internationally recognised institution. It has a diverse range of courses and a high placing in the QS World University Rankings 2022, rated as a top 10 UK university and a number 17 worldwide. It is also rated 2nd in the UK and 4th globally for sustainable practices in 2022 (THE).  


In 2021, it won the top spot globally for sustainability on the THE Impact Rankings. One of the main reasons for its high ranking is the expert research conducted in key areas including sustainable infrastructure, air quality, and pollution and wastewater management. There is a big focus on innovative technology to drive change while leading public engagement and best practices.  



Swansea University 


THE Climate Action ranking: 13th in the UK 


Swansea University has a campus known for its greenery. After being awarded Green Flag status, they have improved significantly towards operating more sustainably. Students here are encouraged to live in a more environmentally friendly way, and Swansea University has integrated a sustainability policy into its ‘Strategic Vision and Purpose’. 


The university has cut its carbon emissions by 35 per cent and introduced a bicycle hire scheme to the whole city of Swansea. They have also been acknowledged for their pioneering work in waste management with an award-winning environmental management system. That's not all. They also actively engage in wildlife conservation on campus, and they have been awarded a 'Bee Friendly' badge of approval for their work.  


Discover more about what it’s like to study in the UK.  



THE Climate Action ranking: 2nd in the UK 


The University of Plymouth finds itself on the beautiful Southwest coast of England, and this location has meant the university actively considers its impact on the planet. The university has had sustainability on its radar for a while. There's significant investment in new technologies to reduce the university's environmental impact, from biodiversity management to Fairtrade Produce. 


From greatly reducing the amount of water used per student each year to increasing the levels of biodiversity on the campus, they have investigated several business areas and made changes towards a greener way of doing things. This includes accreditation by the Sustainable Restaurant Association, with the university achieving the highest level of a three-star rating.  


Find out more about some of the best student cities in the UK.  



THE Climate Action ranking: 3rd in the UK 


The University of Sussex is a popular choice for domestic and international students. Not only does it have so much to offer in terms of courses, but the location itself provides an exciting place to live during your university years. Students at this university can find themselves close to London, the countryside, and the coast. 


It’s not just the wide range of degrees and student lifestyle that the university wants to offer students. They understand that students are becoming more concerned about the future of the planet and have taken steps to make sure they are part of the solution. This includes academic offerings, such as their number one rated Development Studies qualification (QS Subject Rankings 2022) and research into sustainable energy.  


The university aspires to be 'one of the most sustainable universities in the world’ and has plans to drastically cut their carbon footprint by 2025 and continue this until they reach net-zero 10 years later.  


They have made it easier for their students to live more planet-friendly by offering free bus passes and a cycle friendly campus. The university also actively engage their students and the local community to contribute to policies on biodiversity and sustainability at the university.  


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THE Climate Action ranking: 10th in the UK 


Long before other universities were making pledges for the planet, the University of Leicester had already taken steps towards a greener future. Since 2005, they have been making changes that help develop cleaner and more affordable energy. The university has spent a lot of time focusing on clothing waste, encouraging students to donate their old textiles and shop second-hand when they can. 


This led them to partner with the British Heart Foundation, a UK-based charity, to make it easier for students and staff to donate. The university has committed to embedding sustainability in their teaching and curriculum. This includes a 'Living Lab' collaborative approach where students and academics come together to collaborate on key environmental issues.  


The UK is full of incredible universities and has so much to offer international students. Many of these universities have made changes and promises that are helping lead to a greener UK and world. If you’re interested in sustainability, it’s great to know that some universities and degrees can align with your values. 


You can find the perfect course in the UK using our course matcher tool

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