Nick Hillman, Director, HEPI

The Meaning of a Statue 

There are not many statues of women in the UK – one assessment suggests that only one- in-five UK statues are of women, and almost none of them is of a young or contemporary woman.

Yet, when Greta Thunberg’s statue was recently unveiled at the University of Winchester, there was one of those synthetic rows.

It turns out that, where statues are involved, construction is almost as controversial as destruction.

Whether or not it was appropriate for the University to spend their own money on commissioning the piece, the episode shows three important things:

1. Environmental Awareness

First, it reminds us that not all higher education institutions are the same. Winchester has a history of environmental awareness, hosts a number of interesting works of modern art and, spurred on by its religious heritage, is always conscious of its ethical role. So, it would be unfair to accuse the institution of insincerity, whether or not other universities might have been guilty of ‘greenwashing’.

2. Part of Net Zero

Secondly, it reminds us that the higher education sector has a direct role to play in tackling climate change. The challenge is probably greater for bigger research-intensive institutions, with – for example – huge numbers of international students making multiple flights each year and considerable endowments, which have sometimes been invested without much of an eye on environmental awareness.

Moreover, many universities are the biggest – or one of the biggest – employers in their region, and most have a big physical footprint. So any comprehensive reduction in carbon emissions needs to include them.

3. Delivering the Green Agenda

Third, it reminds us that higher education institutions are not insulated from the wider concerns of society. They are of society not set aside from it, especially in an age when more than half of all young adults make it to higher education. Society should value universities because, at their best, they can serve as the thread that binds the very fabric of our society and communities together.

They do this through the provision of skills to local employers, through transforming the lives of millions of students every year and through pushing forward the boundaries of human knowledge.

They are also intertwined with the rest of society in other ways, such as through the stonking investments made by the Universities Superannuation Scheme, which has recently committed to net zero for greenhouse gasses by 2050.

Embedding Sustainability into Institutional Planning

One overarching change that institutions can make is to embed sustainability in their own planning. The University of Manchester recently topped the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. That is a huge achievement for such a vast institution but it was no accident. The University’s commitment to sustainability is at the core of what they do, as reflected in their Strategic Plan, which promises to ‘align our work with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. Putting such commitments formally into institutions’ plans for the future not only reflects the desire for action that exists among most students and staff but also encourages wholly new initiatives.

At a practical level, a second thing that universities can do is to lead by example. The University of Cambridge’s north-west development, for example, neutralised a huge amount of potential opposition by embedding sustainability – for example, in its building standards, its energy use and even the recycling of rainwater for irrigation and flushing toilets. It shows that the desire of institutions to continue expanding and improving need not always fly in the face of environmental concerns. The new Waterside campus of the University of Northampton is another example of what can be done, and the institution recently won an Investors in the Environment Award in part for the use of new technology to reduce the consumption of resources.

Research into Net Zero

University research is crucial in the race to net zero. This is often subsidised (and occasionally entirely paid for) from universities’ own resources. As a country, we have strength in breadth, with expertise across the board, in social science, behavioural economics and anthropology as well as STEM areas, and interdisciplinary approaches are crucial to tackling the world’s grand challenges.

Transition not Revolution to Net Zero

The ideas outlined above might be viewed as less radical than those proposed in a debate paper published by the Higher Education Policy Institute in December 2020 (Beyond business as usual: Higher Education in the era of climate change). People must evaluate whether a more radical approach might be more effective but recognise the destructive forces that inevitably come with revolution.

In the higher education sector as with the nation as a whole, we need to bring people with us if we are to ensure deep and lasting change. Stopping tube trains or digging tunnels under Euston Station are unlikely to build the broad coalition of support that is necessary. The Green Agenda should not be used by anyone as a backdoor route to foisting their own personal hobbyhorse on everyone else. The idea that greening universities necessitates introducing a basic income in society, for example, is mystifying. Tackling climate change is too important for such silly games.

Recommendation 1

Environmental sustainability should be embedded in university strategies.

Recommendation 2

Universities should lead by example.

Recommendation 3

Universities should fund and complete relevant research in the race to net zero.

Nick Hillman, Director, HEPI

Racing to Net Zero - the role of post-16 education and skills

The UK needs comprehensive jobs and skills plan to successfully support and drive the transition to Net Zero.  

This is the conclusion of Campaign for Learning on publishing a new collection of expert views - Racing to Net Zero - the role of post-16 education and skills,

This pamphlet brings together experts on Net Zero and post-16 education, skills and employment policy. The sixteen contributors offer real insights about how post-16 education and skills policy can support the race to Net Zero here in the UK.

Contributors to Racing to Net Zero:

Shaun Spiers, Green Alliance Greening the Economy, Greening the Environment
Stephen Evans, Learning and Work Institute A more ambitious Net Zero ‘Economic, Jobs and Skills’ Plan
Paul Nowak, TUC Workers, Skills and the Net Zero Economy
Duncan Brown, Emsi The Demand for Green Jobs and Green Skills
Ewart Keep, University of Oxford Labour Market Intelligence for Green Jobs and Green Skills
Jane Hickie, AELP Filling Green Jobs with Level 2+ Apprenticeships
Calum Carson, ERSA Filling Green Jobs through Employment Support Schemes
David Hughes, Association of Colleges FE Colleges, Upskilling, Reskilling and Net Zero
Susan Pember, HOLEX Adult and Community Education and Net Zero
Nick Hillman, HEPI Universities and Net Zero
Bill Watkin, Six Form Colleges Association 16-18 Education and Net Zero
John Widdowson, Former FE Principal 16-18 Level 3 T Levels and Net Zero
Rebecca Conway, Federation of Awarding Bodies Net Zero and the ‘Level 3 and Below’ Curriculum
Charlotte Bonner, Education and Training Foundation Education for Sustainable Development and the FE Workforce
Adrian Anderson, UVAC Green Jobs, Apprenticeships and Higher Technical Education
Victoria Hands and Stephen Peake, The Open University Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 2 days ago

RT @NCFE: ‘For as long as humans have worked, and whatever industry they may have worked in, success has always been predicated on having t…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page