A GREEN CLEAN FUTURE
Surveying 3,700 prospective international students in
2019, a QS report found that climate change did not feature
in the three most important issues facing young people
today. A mere 30 per cent said it was a pressing issue. Howe-ver,
further research into how mobile students perceive the
environmental impact their studies make may be lacking.
“There has been a gap in the data – there still is – about
how much students care,” stresses Lamont. Reports indica-ting
young people care more about the environment than
their elders are common, she adds. “They’re prepared to
switch brands based on sustainability issues and so on. But
it hasn’t actually been properly researched around study
destinations.” However, one source says, “we should be
leading the debate rather than waiting for students to push
the debate forward”.
A carbon-neutral international education destination is
on the cards for forward thinking institutions, and even
countries, Nikula notes. Based in New Zealand, she has been
advocating for the country to become that carbon-neutral
destination. “New Zealand has a destination brand of pure
and green, and I think it would align quite well.”
New Zealand is a country that has “a lot to offer” in
climate research, and daily at least 75 per cent of power is
generated using renewable sources. “Even though it’s a very
distant place, we think that the kind of micro petri dish it is
in terms of the size of our population, some of its unique
characteristics, means that it’s an interesting space to work
on this stuff,” says Brett Berquist at the University of Auck-land.
The institution looks at sustainability in a “really broad
way,” Berquist adds, and the part that has been “moving the
most” is climate action.
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going to do without
New Zealand’s brand of pure and
green makes it an ideal carbon-free
destination, maintains Nikula.
PHOTO: RAJAGOPALAN RAMACHANDRAN FROM PEXELS
“It’s definitely something we think about – just in terms of
the travel that we’re doing and how we reach out to stu-dents,”
he says. The university is looking at giving students
the chance to opt into a carbon offsetting process. “Next
semester, we’re going to be running a learning community
around climate action, called #GenerationClimateAction,”
Berquist reveals. Could there be an eight-Kiwi university
plan? He leaves us guessing what that would look like.
Small talk at conferences
The climate emergency is the elephant that is gradually being
whispered about. Conferences don’t currently make it easy
for people to either present or join online, maintains Lamont,
“I think that will have to change”. Berquist recently joined a
UUKi event in London via Zoom, while Strathclyde’s Wylie
held a sustainability session at British Council’s International
Education Conference in Edinburgh in 2019.
EAIE’s flagship event strives to be a sustainable confe-rence
by planting more than 13,500 trees every year and
working with sustainable venues, as well as advocating local
tram travel, such as in Helsinki last year, where all delegates
received a free tram pass upon registering.
Wylie says the state of UK university finances may
hamper efforts to cut carbon in respect to international
students. “Vice chancellors don’t want to say ‘can we now
put £100,000 into planting trees?’ It is very difficult,” he
warns. As a sector, “we need to all move into thinking about
a decarbonised net zero environment and how we’re going
to do it,” he recommends, stirring an attitude akin to that
which international educators seek to instil in their students.
“We’re not going to do without international students and
we’re not going to stop sending students abroad,” he adds.
Although Times Higher Education has created a ranking for
SDG impact, climate action is a topic “too serious” to make
competitive. “This is something with which we should be
passing over good ideas to our ‘competitors’ because they’re
good ideas,” Wylie indicates. “If somebody has got a great
scheme that we can all buy into, for instance, let’s go for it.”