46 | THE PIE REVIEW | ISSUE #25
“We’re at this
early stage of getting
universities to see it is
emissions for its 12 young learner courses from 2020. Intern-ship
provider Global Experiences has also pledged to offset,
as did study abroad provider AFS in 2019. Global university
course search platform Studee launched in 2020 promising
Trees for Degrees. For each student it enrols, it will plant trees.
“The environmental cost of doing the international
student business just hasn’t yet been factored into policy
making and decision making on budgeting,” Lamont notes
however. “It should be along with every other cost… we’re
just at that early stage of actually getting universities to see
that it is their responsibility,” Lamont says.
All institutions and international education sectors and
organisations should be offsetting to at least help in the
short term, says Nikula. “We can ask, ‘can this student use
your service without coming to this country? Is travelling
a pivotal part of it?’ And usually it is. So then institutions
have to start asking if it is actually something they should be
responsible for,” she explains.
On top of student emissions, visiting families and friends
contribute an added layer of carbon, she notes. For now,
offsetting is the easiest option, but it will not be the solu-tion,
says Nikula. “We will need to change our consump-tion
and travel habits,” she says. “We’re all hoping that we
will have a solution one day in terms of actually having
flying that has low emissions. But anything I have read
doesn’t really indicate that we’re going to have it in the
time frame we have.”
Offsetting as a long-term solution
While Wylie reminds that, “we can’t say the planes are taking
off anyway, that we are not responsible for putting fleets of
aircraft in the sky every year,” aviation groups of course at-tempt
to defend themselves. Groups such as the UK’s Sustai-nable
Aviation organisation note that between 2010 and 2016,
passenger numbers in the UK grew by 27 per cent, while total
emissions only grew by around 0.2 per cent.
However, if the ranking affects student choice and
prompts more environmentally friendly universities to ap-pear
more attractive, a neo-liberal approach may say there
is a good thing in that, Wylie adds. We may have to wait to
discover the full impact of THE’s new impact ranking.
Room for Scope
Emissions are categorised into three scopes. Scope 1 refers
to direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by the
organisation; Scope 2 is the generation of purchased elec-tricity
consumed by the organisation; Scope 3 is all other
indirect emissions that are a consequence of the activities
of the company. This is the one that includes commuting
and air travel, and has been “infamously difficult,” according
to Rosie Saban, policy officer at EAUC - The Alliance for
Sustainability Leadership in Education.
Echoing Wylie’s comments, “internationalisation versus
carbon reduction are two priority issues for institutions – and
there is no doubt they are difficult to balance,” Saban says.
“What people tend not to understand about sustainability
is that it doesn’t mean simply improving the environment, it
is actually the premise that to ‘sustain’ you must be able to
balance social, environmental and economic requirements.
So for institutions to sustain themselves, they need to ba-lance
the economic and social benefits of internationalisa-tion
with environmental damage.”
As a reason to damage the environment, international
education and research is one of the “most legitimate,”
opines Shields. Compared to travel for business – “often
travel that’s not even wanted by people undertaking it” – and
short-term leisure travel and holidays that are not strictly
necessary, academic travel is, in his view, one of the most
legitimate forms of consumption.
The seriousness of the sector’s attitude is evident in the in-creasing
number of companies that have announced change.
IH London has pledged to cover the cost of offsetting carbon
Scope 3 of emissions
has been notoriously
hard for companies
and educators to take
PHOTO: NUR ANDI RAVSANJANI GUSMA FROM PEXELS