Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework (SCEF)

The Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework for Further and Higher Education (SCEF) was developed by EAUC - The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, in consultation with the Queens' Platinum Challenge participants and the sector via member bodies, including the Association of Colleges (AoC), Colleges Scotland and Universities UK (UUK). The Framework brings good practice and guidance and will develop a fuller understanding of how institutions contribute to the climate emergency and enable them to take action.

Using the SCEF to calculate your institution's carbon emissions, you can then use the Costing to Net Zero Calculator tool to calculate the cost to net zero, available here. 

The Department for Education has confirmed that universities and colleges will be reporting their carbon emissions by 2024 as per their Sustainability & Climate Change Strategy.

Fiona Goodwin, CEO (Interim), EAUC commented: “To ensure students and stakeholders can hold their institutions to account, a standardised framework must be used for colleges and universities to ensure transparency and comparability. This Framework ensures institutions are taking their responsibilities seriously and taking action to become Net Zero and be part of the solution through their world leading teaching, learning and research.”

FAQs - the responses have been provided by the DfE

What is the timeline for starting to use the Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework?
The Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework (SCEF) to the Higher and Further Education sector was launched in January 2023, via the report of the Queens Platinum Jubilee Challenge “Accelerating the UK Tertiary Education Sector towards Net Zero”, which aims to set out how the sectors can accelerate the reduction of UK tertiary education carbon emissions to achieve net-zero. We anticipate that HE and FE will start to adapt their existing emissions monitoring to meet the SCEF as soon as it is available and that it will give confidence to institutions to start monitoring where they do not already monitor or report.

What is the legal status of the Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework – and how does this apply to the Devolved Administrations?
SCEF is a voluntary guidance document developed by the sector. It does not replace any official guidance or reporting requirements set out by the UK, Scottish, Welsh governments or the Northern Ireland Executive.

We use a different monitoring methodology – do we need to change?
The ambition for SCEF is that it is adopted widely throughout the FE and HE sectors so that institutions can benchmark emissions baselines and reductions against other similar institutions. The methodology is based on the GHG Protocol, the world's most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standard, so should be familiar, and any changes in calculation methods or improvements in the accuracy of emission factors or activity data that result in a significant impact on the base year emissions data should be included in reporting commentary following GHG Protocol guidance.

We already report our emissions - does this change the way we will report?
We do not already report our emissions - do we need to start reporting?

UK reporting responsibilities that are a statutory requirement remain in place such as Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) that require large companies (that meet the published criteria) to publish their energy use. And Wales and Scotland continue to follow their own guidance and reporting requirements.

Organisations which do not have other statutory responsibilities and who use this guidance to measure and report are not currently required to submit reports nor otherwise make the data available to government.
However, there are direct benefits to organisations from measuring and reporting publicly as they will benefit from lower energy and resource costs, a better understanding of their exposure to the risks of climate change and a demonstration of leadership which will help strengthen their green credentials in an increasingly environmentally conscious marketplace.

How can we start to report voluntarily?
In England and Northern Ireland HESA’s Estates Management Report (EMR) remains in place for voluntary reporting by HE and some FE sector, which we would encourage all institutions to continue or start to use. EMR data is open source and can be used immediately to benchmark your carbon emissions.

Following the transfer of HESA to Jisc, the new organisation acknowledges the importance of carbon emissions reporting and is working with DfE to establish the value of an improved EMR reporting product going forward, including some early work to map the current EMR against the new SCEF to be published on the HESA website for current users. From the new reporting year (August onwards) we will aim to align EMR more closely with SCEF and to update the e-learning.

DfE will continue discussions with the Devolved Administrations, BEIS and other statutory bodies about the future of reporting for the education sector and to agree use of already collected data in the first instance to support and facilitate any reporting duty.

If I don’t subscribe to the HESA return, what will it cost me to join?
HESA & DfE will share details in due course.

Will reporting be made mandatory?
DfE has no plans to make reporting mandatory while the sector is in the period of recovery from the pandemic. With increased legislation on net-zero, environment and nature, however, it is inevitable that the sectors are going to have to increase reporting on the their activity. The first step to this is ensuring consistency of data which the Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework provides. The government’s Net-Zero Strategy commits to legislate reporting of emissions if insufficient progress is made voluntarily.

In their new Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy, DfE has committed to enable all further and higher education settings to report their emissions via a standardised and comparable framework by 2024 and from 2025 to publish targets and institutional progress for the further and higher education sectors.

In the DfE Strategy it states 
“On-site emissions from the education estate, baselined by 2024, and progress against national targets published from 2025 onwards” and
“From 2025 we will publish targets and institutional progress for the further and higher education sectors.” 

It is anticipated that these will cover Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions consistent with the SCEF and existing reporting mechanisms.

What if I don’t have the resource (people or time) within my institution to collect the data?
Within the SCEF there is guidance on how to collect your data and you can use estimate data if accurate data is not available. EAUC & DfE are working together to develop further support for institutions that are at the start of their carbon reporting journey. Further details will be out in the coming months.

Will I have to be a member of EAUC to access good practice guidance?
No, the SCEF is freely available to all HE & FE providers.

How will non-university owned student accommodation (private PBSA and PRS) be treated - as a supplier?
Student accommodation and halls of residence that are on-site but owned/managed by an external organisation are considered under Scope 3 category 9. Downstream transportation and distribution. There is further guidance in the SCEF.

“Biodiversity of the education estate, baselined by 2023 to allow annual progress reporting”
The Department has recently appointed the Natural History Museum and a consortium of partners to manage the new National Education Nature Park and Climate Leaders Award, and Esri (a geo-spatial mapping software company) to capture and track biodiversity of educational estate over time as part of that programme. More will follow in 2023 on the process and time frame for this activity.

What will be the reporting framework for the non-HE/FE sectors?
Following the launch to the HE and FE sectors we will use the learning to work with the schools sector to adjust the SCEF for schools requirements and identify a suitable platform through which schools can report and benchmark their emissions with others so that by 2024 all schools will be reporting their emissions via a standardised framework. With the campaign Let’s Go Zero, DfE will set targets for schools between 2025 and 2035. If you would like to get involved in this project please get in touch with

In the DfE Strategy it states “By 2025, have supported education settings to put in place Climate Action Plans, facilitating the use of setting-level data to inform action – these will increase carbon literacy and inform government on the implementation of decarbonisation solutions and nature-based solutions to alleviate flood risk, protect against increased heat, and improve air quality” – is there any thinking on how the support will be put in place for this?
There is a lot of internal development at present that is engaging sustainability sector stakeholders such as EAUC, Ashden and Carbon Literacy and we will be releasing more information in Spring 2023.

What else is happening?
Funded by Department for Education and PHES (AUDE/BUFDG) there is an additional element of guidance being developed which will sit alongside the Framework. This will include estimate costings for specific carbon reduction actions. This will help guide institutions to develop budgets that are aligned with their carbon plans. This piece of work will be delivered in February 2023.

I have another question - who can I contact?
You can contact Fiona Goodwin, Deputy CEO, at with any further questions.

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