How sustainable is your university?
People & Planet’s University League (see table below) is the only comprehensive and independent league table of UK universities ranked by environmental and ethical performance. It is compiled annually by the UK’s largest student campaigning network, People & Planet.
The 2021 People & Planet University League is now live. The 2022/23 edition will be assessed in July and August 2022 and we expect it to be published at the end of 2022.
“There are still too many universities who do not give sustainability the attention or significance it deserves. Never has this information been more urgently needed or more valuable – especially from a student perspective.”
Jonathon Porritt, founder of Forum for the Future
and Chancellor at Keele University
When will the next league table be published?
The 2022/23 People & Planet University League is planned to be published at the end of 2022, but will depend on confirmation with our media partner.
When will the methodology for 2022/23 be published?
The 2022/23 criteria is now on the website.
When will you next assess universities?
Assessment for Staff and Student Engagement, Education for Sustainable Development and Ethical Investment and Banking will take place from 4th-22nd of July.
Assessment for Sustainable Food, Staff & HR, and Policy and Strategy will take place from the 18th July-5th August.
Assessment for Managing Carbon, Workers’ Rights, Environmental Auditing and Management Systems, and Ethical Careers and Recruitment will take place from the 1st-19th of August
How do I receive your University League updates?
Register as one of our university staff key contacts: We will need your: Name - Email - University name - Job title - Phone number.
Send these details to: firstname.lastname@example.org
What if I believe there are errors or missing information?
The league is based on publicly available data at the time the research is done (July August 2022 for the 2022/23 ranking); it is a snap-shot in time and scores will not be changed in this year's league based on information received or published subsequently.
There will be an appeals period in August and September 2022 when key contacts from the universities will receive access links and be able to view and appeal their assessments.
Your organisation will have an opportunity to appeal your marks through receiving access to our appeals survey. These windows have been phased in response to sector feedback.
• August 1st-12th: Appeal window for Staff and Student Engagement, Education for Sustainable Development and Ethical Investment and Banking.
• August 15th-26th Appeal window for Sustainable Food, Staff & HR, and Policy and Strategy.
• August 30th-9th September. Appeals window for Managing Carbon, Workers’ Rights, Environmental Auditing and Management Systems and Ethical Careers and Recruitment. Please note the sections on Managing Carbon and Environmental Auditing and Management Systems take some data from the 2020/21 HESA Estates Management Record, which is due to be published in late August. If the publication of the record is delayed, our provisional assessment for these sections will be incomplete and we may have to make our provisional assessments available to appeal at a later date.
We will send a reminder prior to the opening of each appeals window. Appeals made outside the appeals window will incur a fee of £250, must have an appropriate justification for the late appeal, and won’t be received after the data has been finalised (approximately mid-October). Appeals made outside the appeal window will need to demonstrate the evidence was publicly available during the assessment period in July and August.
Please note all appeal decisions are final.
Can I buy the full data set?
Yes, you can purchase the full data set through our Extras Packages.
Can I buy the 'badge' artwork?
Yes, you can buy bespoke artwork with your university name and place in the league table or class of degree award through our Extras Packages.
Which universities are ranked?
Every UK university that has approved fee cap status and degree awarding powers. For the 2022/23 People & Planet University League, any university that was not included in 2021 must also be registered with Universities UK. We do not rank 'umbrella' higher education organisations such as NCG, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai.
How are universities assessed?
Since 2007, People & Planet have been scoring universities using a set of criteria that investigates their environmental and ethical commitments and actions. Each criteria section adds up to 100% - a bit like a university exam. We refer to this as ‘the methodology’.
45.35% the criteria is scored using data collected and made public by the Higher Education Statistics Agency or other public verified data sources. The rest is scored based on information made public by the university itself, such as policy documents and webpages. Universities that do not make their environmental information public online aren’t likely to score very highly - if we can’t find the information, the institution will score zero. Likewise, universities that do not submit estates data to HESA are unlikely to perform well in the ranking.
Is the methodology published?
Yes, each year People & Planet publish the full methodology on this website, complete with available scores and weighting of scores.
What are the weightings?
The weightings are the amount of % that the section is worth within the full methodology. Weightings are described in the pie chart and also next to each section heading: it says “worth X %”
What questions are in the methodology?
We ask questions covering 14 sustainability topics; including carbon reduction, student and staff engagement, sustainable food, workers rights, ethical investment and education for sustainability.
The full methodology is published on this website. Please use the tabs on the left hand side of the Methodology web pages to navigate each section.
Are the questions the same every year?
Most of the methodology looks the same from year to year. However, the questions are reviewed and developed over time to respond to changes in policy, environmental science, HE sector requirements and the evolution of norms and legislation around human rights and other social justice issues. Between January-March 2022 we consulted sustainability staff at universities and asked for their feedback on our methodology and listened to suggested changes. We were encouraged by these comments and they have been used to inform the 2022/23 People & Planet University League Methodology.
Key Methodology Additions
This year we have a new section titled ‘Ethical Careers and Recruitment’, which assesses universities’ careers and recruitment policies. Sustainability and ethical considerations must be integrated into all elements of higher education institutions. A strong ethical careers policy ensures a university careers service’s involvement with third-party organisations is conducted transparently and in a socially-responsible manner, not in opposition to wider social, environmental and humanitarian concerns. If your institution could benefit from some free consultancy around how to score on this new section, please contact email@example.com
In the ‘Workers’ Rights’ section, there are now points available for low percentages of university staff on fixed-term contracts, created in collaboration with the Universities and Colleges Union as part of their efforts against casualisation in higher education. There are also points available for signing the Can’t Buy My Silence pledge, which is a public declaration not to use non-disclosure agreements for complaints about sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of misconduct.
In the ‘Ethical Investment and Banking’ section, institutions can now score points for making a commitment in policy to screen out investments in companies involved in the border industry.
Since 2010 the People & Planet University League has assessed its carbon reduction section using the HEFCE target of a 43% reduction in scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2020/21 from a 2005/6 baseline. The release of the 2020/21 EMR data by HESA this year will define who has met the target, with 46% of the sector on course last year.
NB Following feedback, some questions have been reworded or had the % value of them changed, so please be sure to read the methodology carefully before updating websites and don’t assume it is identical to 2021
Is there a survey to fill in, or, will we receive an FOI?
No, neither. All data is gathered from third parties or from information publicly available on the university’s website.
Please note we will not accept emails directing us to links on the university website. In the interests of transparency, it is important our researchers navigate the university pages unguided. The only place to signpost to documents or information missed by our researchers is the appeals process.
I need extra support with this / I have some questions
People & Planet are a small charity dedicated to supporting a UK-wide network of students. It does mean that our mostly part-time staff team are unable to provide universities with substantial support unless this work is resourced financially. We'll endeavour to respond to simple University League enquiries via email on: firstname.lastname@example.org - but more involved support would need to be resourced through paid consultancy time. If you would like us to deliver an introductory webinar to your staff team or have internal documents audited then please review our extras packages.
Who writes the methodology?
People & Planet put together the methodology with advice and support from leading organisations working on environmental and social justice issues. Expert university staff and professionals working to improve sustainability in Higher Education have taken part in questionnaires to help develop our criteria.
The People & Planet University League is developed organically in consultation with our student members and is proud to follow a student-led definition of sustainability.
How does this all take place?
Currently, 45.35% of all points are assessed using data taken from the Estates Management Statistics, published every Spring by HESA.
The remaining methodology assesses information that is made publicly available on the university website. Universities can support the assessment by hosting vital documents - such as policy documents on various sustainability issues - online, which allow for the information to be checked and audited.
Assessment will take place in summer 2022, and universities will be told the exact dates in May 2022. A team of People & Planet staff and trained volunteers evaluate every university and allocate scores for each question depending on the evidence that is publicly available for each university.
The university provisional assessments are marked twice to maintain rigor and consistency, and universities are given the opportunity to review their scores and appeal against any marking decisions if they believe an error has been made - we call this the “appeals phase”. People & Planet review every appeal and make case by case decisions on each appeal.
Finally, the scores are added together and each university is ranked in the order of their total percentage score. The highest scoring university is ranked top of the People & Planet University League!
What is the criteria for the Estates Management Record (EMR)?
Sections on Energy Sources, Waste and Recycling, Carbon Reduction and Water Reduction are taken purely from the EMR dataset. The section titled Environmental Auditing and Management Systems is also taken from the EMR but scores can still be achieved if universities publish audits online. Use of EMR data came as a result of calls from the higher education sector to use more of the Estates Management Record to satisfy our data collection.
If my institution hasn't submitted data to HESA, can we still score?
One of the key aims of the People & Planet University League is to encourage and incentivise UK universities to be transparent and accountable on their environmental performance. In line with other sector-wide bodies such as the EAUC and AUDE, we strongly disagree with the EMR data no longer being statutory, and were encouraged to see that 83% of the sector continued submitting EMR data in 2021, despite its non-mandatory status. For that reason, we have decided to score universities which do not submit HESA data as having a zero in questions taken from the HESA EMR record.
This does not exclude your institution from our ranking, but it is likely to have a significant impact on the institution's overall score and position within the ranking.
“The People & Planet University League is important for anyone - staff member or student - who wants to improve their university’s record on green and ethical issues. Information is power and, by providing clear data and clear comparisons between universities, the People & Planet University League is a rich source of evidence, and a vital tool for campaigners and managers alike.”
Sian Berry, author and campaigner
Image of fossil fuel processing plant copyright Jiri Rezac / WWF-UK.