It’s refreshing, I guess, to see a UK university league table which is topped by Nottingham Trent University (with the University of Gloucestershire as runner-up), and in which the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford come in at 68 and 107, respectively. So what are these rankings about? It is the Guardian‘s’People and Planet Green League, 2011′. Or rather:
‘These are university rankings with a difference. They order institutions according to what they are doing to reduce their impact on the environment.’
The table is based on performance under a number of headings, including carbon emissions, fairtrade status, use of exclusively free range eggs, recycling, visibility of an environmental strategy, inclusion of sustainability in the teaching curriculum, and so forth. And if you think the results might just be shrugged off by the winners and losers, look at today’s higher education Twitter activity to learn otherwise.
I could perhaps argue with some of this. I suspect, for example, that the ‘sustainable food’ heading the table uses as a criterion has some doubtful effects – I recently had contact from a Kenyan farmer whose farm collapsed (and whose employees are now facing serious poverty) when Europeans stopped purchasing his vegetables because of the carbon implications. I also wonder whether considering ‘human rights impacts’ (while hugely important) should be part of a ‘green’ league table. But overall the intentions behind these rankings are good, and if they force universities to be more active in developing and implementing sound environmental strategies then it has to be a good thing. The preparations for next year’s rankings start now.