Choosing where to study abroad is a big decision. If you want to make sure that your university respects the environment and operates in a sustainable way, there are ways to find out. One of them are sustainability rankings - read on to learn more:
We are in the midst of a climate crisis. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases and pollution have found us and our world on a knife edge of catastrophic climate change. We need to take action! And it is up to everyone to play their part, including international students like yourself. Now more than ever, it is vital for us to make smart, well-considered choices.
Read more: What students can do to save the planet
Universities have always been seen as beacons of hope - factories of future greatness! So, it is fitting that universities should be leading the way in sustainability. And you can contribute to positive global change by choosing a sustainable university - or challenging your university to follow the example of green universities elsewhere.
Every year the UI Green Metric World University Ranking shows the most environmentally friendly universities. The categories included in the rankings are:
Where does your university rank in the worlds top 10 most sustainable universities of 2021? You can find out for yourself on the UI Green Metric website. Have a look below for a summary of the most sustainable institutions.
|Rank in Europe||University||Country|
|1||Wageningen University & Research||Netherlands|
|2||University of Nottingham||United Kingdom|
|3||University of Groningen||Netherlands|
|4||Nottingham Trent University||United Kingdom|
|5||Umwelt-Campus Birkenfeld (Trier University of Applied Sciences)||Germany|
|7||University College Cork||Ireland|
|8||University of Southern Denmark||Denmark|
|9||University of Bologna||Italy|
|10||Dublin City University||Ireland|
Wageningen University has consistently ranked as the number one “greenest” university in the world since 2017. Wageningen has a special focus on the theme “healthy food and living environment”. As a life sciences university, all of their programmes revolve around topics such as the environment, agriculture, and sustainability.
The University of Nottingham is a real champion of sustainability: They were ranked in the top five most sustainable universities for the last ten years! This is thanks to their goal that environmental sustainability should “remain firmly on the university’s agenda”. The university’s award-winning campus includes a woodland, as well as extensive green spaces and parkland. Nottingham offers a range of sustainability courses and boasts a first-of-its-kind carbon neutral lab, the Centre for Sustainable Chemistry.
The University of Groningen has an entire department dedicated to their green initiatives – the “Green Office”. They work to strengthen and integrate sustainability throughout the university and to support staff and students to be greener. They also have a strong network within the field of sustainability, known as the Sustainability Sounding Board. There is a range of courses relevant to sustainability including a range of science courses and for the business-minded, Global Responsibility and Leadership.
Another Nottingham-based university, NTU is working hard at achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They are one of the first universities to integrate these goals into their curriculum. Nottingham Trent offers a wide range of environmentally focused courses, including Bachelor’s courses in Climate Change; Ecology and Conservation; Environmental Sciences; and Masters courses in Conservation and Endangered Species Recovery.
Established in 1996, the Environmental Campus of Trier UAS in Southwest Germany can claim to be a „Zero Emission University“. Its teaching and research activities are fully dedicated to Environmental Sciences, Biology, Ecology, and related subjects.
Yet another Dutch university in the top 10: Leiden is a university dedicated to sustainability. The goals of their “Sustainability Vision 2030” are to further reduce their environmental impact, to increase their participation in environmental and sustainability policy, and to reduce the carbon footprint of the university by 50%.
At UCC; sustainability and the environment are at the heart of many of their programmes – from green energy to environmental sciences and law. Staff and students are encouraged to take responsibility for their personal actions and choices, and are supported by a sustainability management group. There is a Green Campus Committee made up of students and staff, and a Green Campus Forum; all working towards achieving a “thriving, equitable and ecologically healthy world”.
Another university working towards the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. They support their staff and students in “climate-friendly conduct” and have a sustainability plan that extends to their suppliers, procurement, and disposal. Their new Climate Centre addresses “the long-term societal, technological and political climate challenges through a coordinated and interdisciplinary effort”.
The University of Bologna is the oldest university in the world - and with a 1,000 year history, sustainability is obviously important. Beyond Bachelors and Masters in “green” subjects such as Sustainable Agriculture or Resource Economics they have implemented various successful projects to protect the environment. They encourage students and staff to live more sustainably, for example by gifting reusable water bottles or by offering subsidised public transport.
DCU instills an ethos of sustainability in all areas of the university. They have a green campus committee who support many initiatives that help increase sustainability and environmental awareness. Their Climate Action Plan identifies ways for the university to reduce energy consumption, reduce water usage, improve recycling and waste management, and to enhance biodiversity. Sustainability related courses include Environmental Science; Global Challenges; Mechanical and Sustainability Engineering; Climate and Environmental Sustainability.
Not every sustainable university can make it to the top of a crowded list - but here are a few of the greenest universities in some European countries not represented in the top 10:
There are many ways that universities are becoming more sustainable. Some changes must be made by the university but there are also changes that we must make. Everyone can contribute to making their education and research more environmentally conscious.
Take the next step now:
Find your university in Europe