Sustainability award energised St Andrews

June 8, 2007

Winning a Times Higher award is often a matter of years of hard work coming together at just the right time.

When St Andrews University won our first award for Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development last year, staff who had helped submit their institution's entry saw it as a culmination of several long-term projects that had started to show results.

Charles Warren, senior lecturer in geography and geosciences at St Andrews, said that a colleague pushed him to enter for the award, "given all we were doing in this area".

"When I saw the criteria, I had to agree, because so much of our efforts had come to fruition in the previous 12 months - which is the period on which you are judged. We were not making these efforts to win an award - it was for a whole range of other reasons. But we realised that a lot of what we were doing fitted with what the judges were looking for."

Initiatives that helped clinch the award for St Andrews included an interdisciplinary honours degree in sustainable development, Fairtrade status for the university and students' association, a comprehensive sustainability strategy including an ethical screening policy for investments and a carbon budget for the university's science campus in partnership with the Carbon Trust.

Dr Warren argued that while "it meant an enormous amount to win", St Andrews has simply been responding to public demand for progress on addressing sustainability issues.

He said: "Sustainability issues are dominating so much political discussion and civic effort at the moment that it's only right that universities not only take part in that but also take a lead in it. Although there is quite a lot of effort in this area, it's surprising how few degree programmes are on offer."

As well as providing important peer recognition, winning the award has spurred the university on to further work on the sustainability agenda, said Jan Bebbington, director of the St Andrews Sustainability Institute.

"It has energised us to carry on developing new ideas and coming up with new projects," she said.

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