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 2022/23 People & Planet University League is displayed below. The 2023/24 edition of the ranking will be assessed in the summer of 2023 and published at the end of that year.
When will the next league table be published?
The 2023/24 People & Planet University League is planned to be published at the end of 2023, but will depend on confirmation with our media partner.
When will the methodology for 2023/24 be published?
The 2023/24 criteria is now on the website.
When will you next assess universities?
The 2023/24 People & Planet University League will be assessed in July and August 2023. The exact dates are:
July 3rd-July 21st- Ethical Investment and Banking, Staff and Student Engagement, Education for Sustainable Development
July 17th-4th August-Sustainable Food, Staff & HR, Environmental Policy and Strategy
July 31st-18th August- Managing Carbon, Workers’ Rights, Ethical Careers and Recruitment, Environmental Management and Auditing
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: email@example.com
What if I believe there are errors or missing information?
The league is based on publicly available data at the time the research is conducted (July August 2023 for the 2023/24 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 2023 when key contacts from the universities will receive access links and be able to view and appeal their assessments. The appeals dates are listed below:
- 31st July-11th August: Appeal window for Staff and Student Engagement, Education for Sustainable Development and Ethical Investment and Banking.
- August 14th-25th Appeal window for Sustainable Food, Staff & HR, and Policy and Strategy.
- August 29th-8th 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 2021/22 HESA Estates Management Record, which is due to be published in June. 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.
The HESA data that we use in the ranking will be displayed alongside our appeal responses. Here, we will highlight places where we think there may have been erroneous values reported to HESA. (e.g an inexplicable massive increases/decreases)
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 Badges and Consultancy.
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 Badges and Consultancy.
Which universities are ranked?
Every UK university that has approved fee cap status and degree awarding powers. For the 2023/24 People & Planet University League, any university that was not included in 2022/23 must also be registered with Universities UK. We do not rank 'umbrella' higher education organisations such as NCG, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, or universities that do not have degree awarding powers in their own right. Universities must be able to set their own internal institutional policies in order to be included.
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’.
The methodology is split into two branches: Performance and policy.
‘Performance’ sections are Energy Sources, Carbon Reduction, Waste and Recycling and Water Reduction, the data for which is taken directly from the Higher Education Statistics Agency Estates Management Record (HESA EMR) and total 38% of the overall score. If universities submit their external environmental management audit to HESA, they can score a further 10% for performance, however if they choose to run an internal audit and publish the results they can only score an additional 3% for performance. In this way, the performance section can be worth 41% or 48% depending on whether universities report their environmental management audits to HESA.
The remaining ‘policy’ sections are 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.
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 2023 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 2023/24 People & Planet University League Methodology.
Key Methodology Additions 2023/24
For the 2023/24 edition of the People & Planet University League we have added a question in the Managing Carbon section, on whether universities have a policy to reduce emissions from business travel. This question builds on action that was already taking place at universities, and as such is a good example of the University League recognising and rewarding innovations within the sector. Thanks to the sustainability staff who took part in the consultation and to the Flying Less group for their collaboration in developing the question.
Following our feedback and consultation with representatives from universities we have made the following additions based on university suggestions:
Removal of the question on publication of sustainability department budget from the Staff & HR section.
Acceptance of Carbon Literacy certification in question 3 of Staff & HR.
Expansion of accepted engagement activities beyond Go Green Week in Staff and Student Engagement.
We now accept Green Impact rather than Green Impact Student Unions by SOS-UK as it is a more comprehensive assessment of universities in Staff and Student Engagement.
Points are now available for being awarded working towards status for Responsible Futures by SOS-UK
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. For the 2023/24 edition we will continue to assess universities on their progress towards the same trajectory of 2.87% per year.
NB Following feedback, some questions have been reworded or the % value of questions or sections has been changed, so please be sure to read the methodology carefully before updating websites and don’t assume it is identical to 2023/24.
Are any changes confirmed for the 2024/25 Methodology?
Following feedback from universities in our sector consultation, we will be adding another tier to our assessment framework for Q2 on Staff & HR. Universities pointed out that institutions with more than 25,000 students are awarded the same points for student staff ratios as a university of 15,000. To rectify this, in the 2024/25 methodology there will be a new tier for universities with more than 25,000 students, who will need to have 15 or more sustainability staff to be awarded full marks.
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 consultancy services.
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?
Assessment will take place in summer 2023. 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 universities’ 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 85% of the sector continued submitting EMR data in 2022, 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.
Image of fossil fuel processing plant copyright Jiri Rezac / WWF-UK.