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.
“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 2021 People & Planet University League will be out on December 9th 2021. Information about the 2022 People & Planet University League will be announced in spring 2022.
When will the criteria for 2021 be published?
The 2021 criteria is now on the website.
When will you next assess universities?
Assessment information for the 2022 People & planet University League will be announced in spring 2022.
How do I receive your University League updates?
Register as one of our university staff key contacts: Please can we have 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 process (read more below) was that we gathered information at a point in time, then offered all universities a chance to see what we had gathered and appeal any corrections or omissions. The league is based on publicly available data at the time the research was done (July August 2021 for the 2021 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.
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 2021 UL, any university that was not included in 2019 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’.
Half the criteria is scored using data collected and made public by the Higher Education Statistics Agency or other public verified data sources (you can find out which by looking at the methodology - we publish the whole thing to be as transparent as possible). The rest is scored based on information made public by the university itself. Universities that do not make their environmental information public online aren’t likely to score very highly - if we can’t find the info, the institution will score zero.
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 13 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 2019 and 2021 there have been no new sections added and only minor changes to questions to increase objectivity and practicality of marking.
The set of questions we started out with in 2007 wouldn’t stay current for long if we didn’t continue to research the context of sustainable development and keep up to date with the learnings and understanding of what students and universities need to be doing to tackle fast moving environmental and global social justice problems.
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.
I need extra support with this / I have some questions
We're a small charity (8 people!) supporting a student network across the UK, so our work with universities can only be offered when funded. We can offer consultancy, by way of workshops/trainings and support by phone as well as attending university staff meetings/sustainability boards etc, and we are able to offer bespoke support around the People & Planet University League for your university. This work is priced as part of our support packages.
Or for something tailor-made, please contact:
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 consultation focus groups to help develop our criteria.
The People & Planet University League is developed organically in consultation with our student members and very much reflects what students mean by sustainability.
How does this all take place?
Currently, up to 50% of all questions 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 carbon management plans - online, which allow for the information to be checked and audited.
Universities will be told when their websites will be assessed. 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.
In previous years, the university would be failed if they did not update their answers to the survey questions. Now, if a university hasn’t made their information public, it will be marked as missing data, markers may spend up to 3 hours researching available information from the university website or other publicly available sources.
The university scorecards 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 10 to 13 are taken purely from the EMR dataset. We have also taken additional data from the EMR to fulfill aspects of section 3 and 5 - this development 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 are encouraged to hear that a large proportion of the sector intends to continue submitting EMR data. For that reason, we have decided to score universities which do not submit HESA data as having a zero in those specific sections (10-13).
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.
We would be interested in understanding universities' decisions not to submit EMR data, and we would strongly encourage all institutions to restart submissions so that universities can continue to score highly in the following year's People & Planet University League.
“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.