HEFCE Sustainable Development Framework Consultation

HEFCE launched a consultation in late 2013 aiming to encourage dialogue within the higher education sector on what more can be done to promote sustainable development. Find out more here. As we are a Member-led organisation, we represent you and ensure that your views on topical issues are conveyed to the rest of the sector. To ensure we represent your views accurately, we ran our own consultation with our Members.

EAUC Member consultation

In December 2013, we ran a pre consultation webinar for Members to help us start to shape our thinking. Thank you to all those who took part. Below is a summary of the webinar delegates key points. 

In January 2014, we surveyed our Members using the questions from the HEFCE consultation.

EAUC CEO, Iain Patton, also attended a HEFCE consultation event in January to represent Members and to collect more views to add into the EAUC's official response. You can access the presentations and recording on this event on HEFCE's website.

Official response

All of this insight was combined into an official EAUC Membership response which gives our whole Membership a powerful voice on this vital consultation. This was submitted to HEFCE on 7 February 2014 and is available to download below.

► Read the EAUC response

Summary of webinar points

While Members welcomed the Framework, the concern was that HEFCE’s approach isn’t aspirational enough, especially in regard to Education for Sustainable Development, research and carbon reduction targets. Supporting Green Academy and funding a 0.5 FTE academic lead is good but HEFCE could do more to expect Higher Education Academy (HEA) to have some synergy with its values.  HEFCE need to overcome its historical reluctance to talk about learning. The commitment of HEA to Sustainable Development is unclear and this is a major obstacle for the sector to make substantive progress. Equally unclear is HEFCE’s own commitment to Sector Scope 3 carbon reduction targets.

Members recognise that HEFCE does not have the funding authority it previously did and hence fear that the Framework as is could easily be ignored. However, where HEFCE does have power is in empowering students to drive change.  We welcome the Green Fund but again more can be done to champion the student voice and the new relationship between students and sector professionals as reflected in the new staff/student approach to EAUC Membership. HEFCE should do more to ensure that sustainability is included in the National Student Survey and we encourage them to do that.

The sector suffers a lack in leadership for sustainability. Our concern is that a reading of the Framework reflects the agenda still as only a ‘nice to have’. The Framework is weak on Universities UK (UUK) and HEA influence but webinar delegates welcomed the more advanced and constructive approach with Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. UUK consistently fails to give leadership in this regard with the Framework’s only references to UUK being based on resource efficiency which is only one aspect of sustainability. Instead delegates want sector leaders to see sustainability as a governance issue, a risk issue, a financial issue and as a moral and ethical issue too.

Delegates asked how achievement of the Vision will be measured particularly as there has been no evaluation of the impact of the previous Strategy. And, how will universities be recognised as leaders in society’s efforts?  And by whom? Delegates agreed that more could be gone by HEFCE to require sustainability reporting by all institutions.

Finally, regarding improving the Revolving Green Fund (RGF), comments included the benefit of allowing longer paybacks and the value of if large scale projects could have less restricted timescales on when the RGF money has to be spent.

Personal comment from Iain Patton. To quote Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, “Success in sustainable development, will require new science-based solutions. Success will require an unprecedented integration of insights across various disciplines, including earth systems sciences, public health, civil engineering, information technologies, economics, politics, law, business and much more. Only universities bring together this range of knowledge (hence their “universality”). Universities are therefore critical stakeholders for success. To an unprecedented extent, universities must partner with government, business and civil society to take on the great challenges of sustainable development that lie ahead.”  The question is whether the draft HEFCE SD Framework will really be the call to action we need?
Delivered by EAUC