Climate change crisis should be embedded in education, say students and staff

Posted in: Climate Action Survey 2022

Climate Action Survey 2021 results suggest students and staff are ready for climate education to become ‘mainstream’.

The results from our 2021 Climate Action Survey show that both students and staff believe education plays a major role in empowering them to take action against climate change. In our survey of over 3900 people:

  • Over 98% of respondents were supportive of climate education
  • 72% of students and 66% of staff believe that climate literacy and education should be embedded in the main curriculum
  • 22% of students and 17% of staff believe that climate change should be embedded within ALL degree programmes, with 8% of students and 13% of staff going further and answering that climate action should be the organising principle for all degrees.

The clear message from these survey results is that staff and students are supportive of our stated aim to provide "opportunities for every student to study and work on climate related issues". The results suggest that University students and staff are seeking the climate change knowledge they need to equip them for a world in which they already live.

Embedding climate education at the University

Since declaring a Climate Emergency in 2020, the University has worked hard to drive the process of embedding climate change across the University and into our education framework.

By this we mean equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to respond to the uncertainty and rapid environmental and social changes that a changing climate brings. Through new programmes such as our Carbon Literacy induction, we are giving students the information they need to integrate environmental issues into their learning right from the start.

In September 2021, Bath became the first University to include Carbon Literacy in induction for all new students. More than 5,000 students were given the opportunity to learn about the carbon intensity involved in everyday activities including travel, energy use and food consumption, and how to reduce emissions individually as well as across organisations and systems.

From this initiative, a number of students expressed an interest in getting engaged with our climate education strategy. Working with these students (the Climate Leaders) we have co-created a set of educational principles which are guiding our roadmap for action.

diagram showing education principles - Engage, Enable, Empower

Examples of activities that speak to these principles include:

  • Engage: Supporting students in understanding the basics of the climate emergency and mitigation approaches through our Climate Literacy programme
  • Enable: Embedding relevant climate content in our existing courses through our Citizenship and Sustainability principle
  • Empower: Developing new programmes and initiatives specifically focused on sustainability and climate change – for example our Vertically Integrated Projects

Without this climate change education, students – and staff – will lack the knowledge they need to learn how their subjects are being changed by the climate crisis.

Given the increasing demand from students and employers for ‘greener’ skills, it makes sense to bring climate change education into the mainstream across all disciplines. However, despite growing demand from students to learn about climate change, our survey shows that 19% of staff do not feel they have sufficient knowledge about how the University should integrate climate-related content into their teaching.

Through our education plan we are working closely with the Centre for Learning and Teaching to integrate Sustainability and Climate Change education into the Curriculum Principles and the curriculum transformation process by providing resources, support and guidance on curriculum and professional training. We are also integrating Carbon Literacy into staff training.

Agents of change: Looking ahead

SOS-UK research found in 2021 that a whopping 90% of students are either ‘concerned or very concerned about climate change’ – that’s significantly up from just a decade ago. As the urgency of climate change increases, so does students’ support for better climate education. Protests led by Greta Thunberg demonstrated how youth movements can have a huge impact on the wider community. Her commitment to stopping climate change has sparked great interest in students globally. And in fact, our survey results show that 8% of students and 13% of staff believe climate change should be the organising principle for all degrees offered at the University, highlighting that parts of our community are already striving to prioritise climate change in their learning and teaching.

Integrating climate change awareness – whatever your discipline

When working on bringing climate change education into the University curriculum, the traditional approach of offering optional units is still useful, but no longer sufficient. These courses tend to attract students with an already keen interest in the climate. But the climate crisis doesn’t just affect one discipline or one person – it affects us all.

Dr Steve Cayzer, Climate Action Education Lead:

Working as the Education Lead for the Climate Action Framework, I have been inspired by the depth of commitment from both staff and students to make this a reality. There is much more to be done, but this survey demonstrates we have a clear mandate for action.

With unprecedented change faced by all sectors of the economy, embedding climate change into education carries many rewards for students and staff, including employability benefits. Improving knowledge of the subject and developing new skills with an educational focus is critical if we are going to prepare learners for the future. To stay up-to-date on the latest progress the University has made in this area, visit our climate change hub, and watch out for future blogs exploring specific aspects of our roadmap in more detail.


Notes about the survey 
  • This survey was conducted in November 2021.
  • This survey was completed by 3985 respondents, representing 39% of University staff and 11% of students.
  • This survey was commissioned by the Climate Action team with methodology devised and results analysed by Dr Paul Haggar, Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh, Kaloyan Mitev and Hannah Lester.
  • The collated survey data can be accessed by members of the University of Bath community here.
  • If you have any questions about the nature of this survey, please contact climateaction@bath.ac.uk

Posted in: Climate Action Survey 2022

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