You need cookies enabled

HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


You need cookies enabled

The consultation asks for views on proposed sector-level targets for the reduction of carbon emissions (see Note 1) and a proposed strategy for achieving these targets.

We propose that the higher education sector:

  • commits to reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions (see Note 4) by 80 per cent by 2050 and by at least 34 per cent by 2020, against a 1990 baseline
  • aspires to reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50 per cent by 2020 and by 100 per cent by 2050, against 1990 levels
  • commits to reducing scope 3 emissions and to improving measurement of scope 3 emissions with the intention of setting targets for these emissions in the future.

The strategy aims to focus efforts in areas that offer the greatest potential carbon reduction return, such as: energy use within the estate; transport; water consumption; waste; and procurement, through technical, structural and behavioural solutions. It also aims to identify issues that need further consideration and support.

The consultation sets out areas where HEFCE, Universities UK and GuildHE will work with institutions and other stakeholders to achieve carbon reductions. It will be for individual institutions to decide, within the national set of targets, how to reduce, measure, review and report progress on their own emissions.

Institutions will be required to have carbon management plans and performance against these plans will be a factor in capital allocations from 2011, as requested by the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills in HEFCE's 2009 grant letter (see Note 6).

The consultation asks for comments on HEFCE’s initial thinking for linking capital funding to carbon emissions. This will be achieved using the next Capital Investment Framework, which will have a greater focus on carbon.

HEFCE will not specify how carbon plans should be developed or what they should contain but will expect a number of key elements to be present. These include: a carbon baseline and targets; an implementation plan with resources allocated; a commitment to monitor progress towards targets regularly and to report publicly annually; and for the plan to be signed off by the governing body.

HEFCE has commissioned good practice guidance on developing carbon management plans. This complements existing guidance and sets out what HEFCE's requirements may be in this area. The consultation seeks views on this and any areas where additional guidance is needed.

Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said:

'Universities can play a vital role in our economic recovery, especially in advancing a strategy for real and lasting change in order to reduce our carbon footprint. The results of this consultation will be awaited with enormous interest.'

Sir Alan Langlands, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:

'Higher education is uniquely placed to play a leading role in helping to meet the UK carbon reduction targets. This can be achieved through the skills and knowledge of its students and graduates, through its research and exchange of knowledge, and through the strategies and operations of every university and college.

'We believe that the approach outlined in this consultation will harness the commitment, creativity and innovation in higher education, to achieve a genuine carbon reduction culture. We hope that all institutions, working with partners, will want to be part of this effort to significantly reduce emissions.'

Diana Warwick, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

'Universities UK supports this goal. The pursuit of sustainable development is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. Universities, as educators, have been playing a vital role in moving this agenda forward and seeking a reduction in carbon emissions is key to this.'

Professor Patricia Broadfoot, Chair, Universities UK / GuildHE Sustainable Development Task Group and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, said:

'Universities and colleges must play their part in meeting national targets for carbon reductions. We are pleased to be working in partnership on this important and pioneering agenda.'

Professor Elaine Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts and GuildHE Executive Member, said:

'GuildHE institutions are well placed to assist in making progress in carbon reduction. As key players in the communities we serve we will engage seriously and conscientiously in this process.'

Richard Rugg, Head of Public Sector at the Carbon Trust, said:

'HEFCE’s consultation is valuable because it will encourage universities and colleges to focus on the practical details of how they are going to cut their carbon.

'The proposed targets are a good thing. Expecting higher education to sign up to the same commitment as the UK is only reasonable, while the more ambitious target of halving emissions in the next ten years is certainly achievable: some universities working with us are on track to do this in only five or six years.'

SQW Consulting and SQW Energy were commissioned to undertake research to measure a carbon baseline and to make recommendations for a sector-level carbon reduction target and strategy for higher education in England. The study was conducted between November 2008 and April 2009. This report informed the consultation and is also being published today (Thursday 30 July).


1. In this document, as in the consultation, 'carbon' is used as a shorthand for carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).

2. 'Consultation on a carbon reduction target and strategy for higher education in England' (HEFCE 2009/27) is available on the HEFCE web-site. The closing date for responses is Friday, 16 October 2009. As part of the consultation we will be holding two seminars to help inform this process and to offer the sector the chance to discuss details further. These will take place on:

  • Thursday 3 September 2009 in London
  • Monday 7 September in Manchester.

3. 'Research into a carbon reduction target and strategy for Higher Education in England: a report to HEFCE by SQW Consulting and SQW Energy' is available on the HEFCE web-site.

4. The World Resource Institute developed a classification of emission sources around three 'scopes':

  • scope 1 emissions are direct emissions that occur from sources owned or controlled by the organisation, for example emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers/furnaces/vehicles
  • scope 2 accounts for emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the organisation
  • scope 3 covers all other indirect emissions which are a consequence of the activities of the organisation, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the organisation – for example, commuting and procurement.

5. The Capital Investment Framework is the methodology to assess higher education institutions’ approaches to capital investment. The Framework was developed to encourage institutions to manage their physical infrastructure as an integral part of their strategic and operational planning. Further information on how HEFCE allocates capital funds.

6. The 2008 and 2009 grant letters to HEFCE from the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills contained specific requirements that incorporated the requirements of the 2008 Climate Change Act. This includes linking capital funding to performance against carbon management plans from 2011. Archive of grant letters.

7. The Carbon Trust is an independent company set up in 2001 by Government in response to the threat of climate change, to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy by working with organisations to reduce carbon emissions and develop commercial low carbon technologies. The Trust provides expert advice, finance and accreditation to business and the public sector to help them reduce their carbon footprint and to stimulate demand for low carbon products and services.