Making Sustainability in Universities

These days in Italy there has been much ado about… something.
In our university, the University of Bologna, there have been major semi-violent conflictual events between students and the university establishment. Indeed: the university has decided after years of uncontrolled occupation to reset the order in the Literature department, by installing turnstiles right at the entrance. At the 36th of via Zamboni there have been apparently many years of collective student organised gatherings, and, depending on the source of information, sometimes controversial happenings featuring sexual assaults and drugs.
In this article I would like to dig into the concept of sustainability in a university, reminded by these unfortunate news.

An Interesting Book
The Book “Sustainability at Universities- Opportunities, Challenges and Trends” written by Walter Leal Filho is interestingly summing up this dimension in three aspects:

  1. Sustainability in teaching. These days the educational structures should feel the call to pass onto the next leading generations  the practice of sustainability. This can be actually very easily implemented: for example, funding related research, creating ad hoc programmes, or blending traditional subjects with  glimpses of sustainability.
  2. Sustainable university management. Preaching is right, but then acting is due. This means pouring sustainability in student housing (aka in the buildings, as the heating or recycling system). One of the first steps should be, according to Filho, to appoint some officers to start the transition.
  3. Sustainable university integration. This is a hot topic, which most of the time is apparently neglected. This means making the university suitable to social and environmental sorroudings. It is  a concept that for sure applies to newly built colleges, but also to long date higher educational structures: this is exactly what happened in Bologna. Alma Mater is the most ancient university in the western world, still, it has been facing major challenges: first of all the enourmously increasing number of enrollments. The city therefore has experienced an inflow of specific population: twenty years old- mostly low bugdet- population with a precise lifestyle. The University has then the obligation to make this integration possible throughout its available instruments: such as the campus sprawl in suitable areas (think about our campusses in Romagna region) or integrating the citizenship with the student life through projects. The episode of these last days in Bologna shows that this integration of a variety of needs (in detail: the need of a university public space available for students, the safe use of the library for the officers and students, and the serenity of a central district such as via Zamboni and piazza Verdi) actually and miserably  failed.

Is it possible?

It is! At the moment of speaking Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, is a pure example of sustainable university: its main focus is Sustainability, it is therefore a specialised university. Every offered course has its main focus on this subject, there is an office appointed in this sense and the facilities are highly accessible.
However, looking also at other non-specialised facilities aorund the world one can find interesting inspirational example.
Taking the chart computed by GreenMetric of the University of Indonesia we find the University of California Davis, the Nottingham and Oxford University, and the Wien Bodenkultur one.
The institutes are classified according to six metrics: setting & infrastructure, energy & climate chnage, waste, water, transportation and education.

For example, this is the mission statement of University of Nottingham:

Our vision for 2020

The University of Nottingham – an inspiring place of learning and scholarship that transforms lives through:

  • Offering an outstanding, broad-based, international education to talented students

  • Developing skilled, reflective global citizens and leaders

  • Undertaking fundamental and transformative discovery

  • Being committed to excellence, enterprise and social responsibility

  • Sustaining and improving the places and communities in which we are located

  • Being engaged internationally to enhance industry, health and well-being, policy formation, culture and purposeful citizenship


You can check out yourself the rankings here.
You will find that our University is at 71st position: this is not so bad but we can actually improve it.


Stay tuned and live our uni sustainably 🙂

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