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This consultation is now closed.

Executive summary


1. This document sets out some of the ways higher education can contribute to sustainable development, and proposes an overall framework for how HEFCE will support sustainable development in the higher education sector. It encompasses our earlier policy statements on sustainable development and carbon reduction, and will influence our future funding. We ask for comments from staff at all levels within institutions, and invite students’ views too. We intend that the responses to this consultation will shape our future actions.

Key points

2. Protecting and enhancing quality of life for current and future generations is central to sustainable development. There are social, environmental and economic dimensions to this, and the benefits and the challenges are considerable. Higher education has worked to tackle many of the challenges.

3. Higher education has a unique position in society. Its institutions can play a substantial role through teaching and research, through influence on staff and students, through business operations, and through the sustainability of their campuses.

4. We want sustainable development to be central to higher education, and propose a new vision to recognise what the sector has achieved and how much it is capable of.

5. This document sets out some of the issues:

General principles

  1. Why sustainable development is important: the national and international context.
  2. The important role of universities and colleges of higher education.
  3. How HEFCE intends to support the sector.

Specific themes

  1. Supporting students.
  2. Education for sustainability.
  3. Research.
  4. A modern sustainable economy.
  5. Business operations.
  6. Information and analysis.
  7. HEFCE operations.

6. We have set out proposed ‘Action points’ for HEFCE within the document, and these are listed at Annex C. Comment on these is welcomed as part of the consultation.

7. The actions and vision articulated in this consultation are referred to as a framework because we want to set out a coherent longer-term engagement.

Action required

8. Comments are invited on the questions at Annex C using the response form below. Responses should be e-mailed to by noon on Friday 7 February 2014.

9. Institutions responding to this consultation are asked to collaborate internally before providing feedback on the draft framework.

10. As part of the consultation we are holding two seminars in January, one of which will be made accessible via live streaming. We hope that institutions will be represented at a senior level at these events, and invite them to send up to three delegates. We also hope that at least one student from the institution will attend to contribute to discussions. We hope the events will stimulate broader discussion and action by the higher education sector, for example about:

  • the challenges and opportunities that the sector faces
  • how students can be better supported to develop relevant skills and knowledge
  • successes that can be repeated.

The events will be taking place on: 9 January in Leeds and 30 January in London. Further information on the events

Date: November 2013

Ref: 2013/31

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Senior management, Academic and support staff, Students

Enquiries should be directed to:

Andrew Smith, tel 0117 931 7001, e-mail