Further and Higher Education Action for Biodiversity

“Today, more than ever, we are dependent for our sustenance, health, well-being and enjoyment of life on fundamental biological systems and processes. As seats of learning for life, our universities and colleges must pioneer a new appreciation of our co-dependence.” Iain Patton, CEO, Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges

The Further and Higher Education (FHE) sectors has an important part to play in conserving our natural heritage. According to partial and approximate figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), more than 11,400 hectares of land belong to Higher Education institutions in England. In total, the land area within FHE campuses across the UK is likely to amount to an area similar to the size of the Isle of Wight, about 38,000 hectares! Conserving and enhancing biodiversity on this scale would make a real national difference.

FHE institutions also have a responsibility for educating the next generation of leaders about the importance of biodiversity and wider sustainability issues. This was recognised at the Rio+20 conference in 2012 where institutions across the world were encouraged to integrate sustainable development across disciples and progress with related research. Biodiversity initiatives are a crucial way to engage students and staff in sustainable development and provide a visible example of best practice.

The FHE sectors have developed a wide range of ways to support Universities and Colleges in taking action on biodiversity. The first edition of the EAUC Biodiversity Guide was published by the EAUC in 2006. Since this time it has provided a valuable resource for the sector and beyond to conserve, maintain and enhance biodiversity. This new, online edition is intended to become an evolving resource for the sector. Online biodiversity resources and tools are also a key feature of the EAUC’s Sustainability Exchange and SORTED.

Biodiversity is one of the 14 key frameworks within the EAUC Learning in Future Environment (LiFE) tool. It is free to EAUC members and can be used to help members to plan, deliver measure and report on biodiversity initiatives at a strategic level. The tool is now part of the LiFE accreditation system. Biodiversity is also a key element in gaining accreditation through EcoCampus, Environmental Management Systems and in achieving awards from the NUS Green Impact programme. Biodiversity projects are also eligible for an EAUC Green Gown Award as a high profile way to gain brand integrity and recognition to senior management in the tertiary education sector.