Sustainability is a growing topic that is influencing a lot of industries to make changes. Students entering these industries will be a part of the driving force of change for making companies more sustainable. Because of this impact that students could have on the future, for us we feel it’s important to see the student view on sustainability and how it relates to the university.

The National Union of Students (NUS) puts out a survey each year to gain the students opinions and attitudes about sustainability. The NUS have run this survey since 2010 and have found that nationally, on average 80% of students would like their University to be doing more for sustainable development.  It is promoted as a lifestyle survey about the student’s attitudes at university, instead of just putting an emphasis on sustainability. This stops the results being biased. We started promoting this survey to our students in 2016.

If an institution manages to achieve over 100 responses from its students, then the NUS will share the survey raw data with that institution. Having this information allows us to have a clear view of our student’s opinions. We have had over 100 responses for the past 5 years. Having so many years of data provides us with the opportunity to see the development in attitudes over the years.

The findings collected from this survey are used by NUS to drive student led sustainability projects. Some of these projects are Student Switch Off, Responsible Futures, Green Impact and Student Eats. De Montfort University also takes part in several of these projects. This allows us to have goals and targets to meet every year. It gives us something to work towards and improve each time. Plus because of the way the projects are set up we are able to engage our student in the work we do.

The survey questions ask the students about why they chose their University and what choices/things they have learn that have helped develop skills and attributes while studying. Other questions enquire into how much the students feel the University tries to reduce their impact on the environment, but also, what they expect the institute to do for sustainable development and if it meets this.

So what result did we get from the survey questions? 90% of DMU students agreed/ strongly agreed that sustainable development is something that universities should actively incorporate and promote. The results also show that 83% of DMU agree/strongly agree that sustainable development is something that all university / colleges courses should actively incorporate and promote.

The results also asked students to judge how well DMU promotes and includes sustainable development with the University. For example, one of the questions was being a student at my university/college encourages me to think and act to help the environment and other people and 73% of our students agree/strongly agree. Also, the students where asked if my university/college takes action to limit the negative impact it has on the environment and society which had a response rate of 76% of our students agree/strongly agree.

We compare the raw survey data to the previous year’s results. Since we started in 2016, we now have 5 years of data to work with. Overall, this has shown us that consistently that sustainability is something that our students have an interest in and would like us to actively promote and incorporate into the University. A short report on the results of the 2020 survey and how that compares to previous years is available here.

Antonia Hayward

Sustainability Advocate