Survey reveals student demand for sustainability education

Posted by chj6 at May 11, 2017 09:55 AM |
Findings from the recent NUS student skills survey show 88% of students believe that universities should actively incorporate and promote sustainable development.

The survey of over 600 Leicester students in December 2016 revealed a high demand for sustainability education.

Learning about sustainability in courses

78% of respondents agreed that sustainable development should be actively incorporated and promoted within courses, up 7% from last year. However, the results suggest students perceive a lack of teaching on this topic. Themes they felt were not included in their course were:

  • how human activity is affecting nature (not included for 74%)
  • how to use resources efficiently to limit the impact on the environment (not included for 78%)
  • considering ethical issues linked to their subject (not included for 46%)
  • solving problems by thinking about whole systems (not included for 51%)

We are currently conducting an audit of sustainability-related teaching as part of the Curriculum Transformation process using the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goals


Dead trees
69% believed that learning about how human activity is affecting nature was either fairly or very important

Why are students demanding this knowledge?

Many reasons were given by students, when asked to say why they would like to learn more about sustainable development. Responses included:
  • Concern for the future of the planet, or of future generations
  • To improve their chances of getting a job
  • To learn more about an interesting subject
  • Becoming more educated so that they might integrate their knowledge into their future careers, not necessarily a solely environmental role.
  • Learning how to personally contribute and do their ‘bit’
Having done much research into the business environment of 2050 as part of my course, I have seen that environmental and technological factors almost compete with each other. Certain technology will not be available in the future if we use all of the resources we have now. Also, if sustainable development could help slow global warming, it is in our interest to learn about it.”

Student Career Image

72% said they would consider a position with a starting salary of £1000 lower than average (£20,000) in a company with a strong environmental and social record.

Opinions on the sustainability of the University

72% of respondents agreed that University of Leicester takes action to limit the negative impact it has on the environment and society, whilst 75% felt that of the Students' Union.

Although the majority of students believed that the University should promote sustainable development, only half agreed that being a Leicester student encouraged them to think and act to help the environment. Post-graduates and international (non-EU) students were more likely to report that university had encouraged them the most to act to help the environment and people.

Overall the results of the survey are similar to the national results consistently found by HEA/NUS for the past six years.