Westminster Higher Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

UK higher education and net zero - the curriculum, collaboration, and sustainable estates and practices

Morning, Thursday, 22nd October 2020

Online Conference


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference focuses on improving the sustainability of UK universities, their estates and operations - and their wider contribution towards meeting net-zero 2050.

It takes place against the backdrop of the Government’s policy drive to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and significant initiatives within the sector itself.

Delegates will examine priorities, next steps and best practice for universities - including how challenges are being met and strategies for addressing unresolved issues - and the way forward for maximising the sector’s contribution to UK leadership in climate change research and innovation.

There will be keynote contributions from: Rt Hon the Lord Deben, Chairman, Committee on Climate Change; Rob Gillies, Associate Director Environmental Sustainability, UK Research & Innovation; and Professor James Longhurst, EAUC Commissioner and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability, University of West England.

The conference agenda looks at:

  • strategies and targets for leaders in UK higher and further education - and collaboration between HEI departments and with other sectors
  • designing and delivering sustainable campuses - including adoption of environmentally sustainable investment, procurement and operations
  • climate change in the HE curriculum and research programmes
  • the role of major funders in supporting transformation, and the exchange of knowledge between HEIs and government

We also expect discussion on the challenges that COVID-19 presents for progress on sustainability in higher education - in the short term as the sector focuses on keeping staff and students safe, and adapting the operational and financial impacts of the pandemic - and into the future as universities manage costs and priorities.

Why this is relevant now - the context:

  • The Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education Leaders - backed by the AoC, EAUC, GuildHE and UUK - formulating its strategic framework for the sector and sets targets for higher education’s contribution to meeting net-zero targets
  • The Research and Development Roadmap for research moving forward, published by BEIS, including supporting innovation in meeting net zero carbon emissions
  • The Government’s Industrial Strategy highlighting the role that universities can play in driving the innovation needed for clean growth and tackling climate change
  • The UK Climate Resilience Programme, launched collaboratively by UKRI and the Met Office offering £18.6m in funding for climate research in order to initiate research in multi- and inter-disciplinary climate risk and adaption research
  • Recent development of UKRI’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy, aiming for net zero emissions resulting from the research it is involved in and its other operations by 2040

The discussion in detail:

Sustainability in the curriculum:

  • how teaching on environmental sustainability can be embedded in subject curricula across all university courses
  • strategies for ensuring that students leave university with an effective understanding of climate change and the transferable skills to adjust to the requirements of new jobs and ways of working that are likely to emanate from the transition to net zero and beyond


  • the way forward for joint working between:
    • university departments - approaches to effective collaboration and addressing any barriers so as to support greater levels of interdisciplinary research in climate-related fields
    • funders and HEIs to ensure that net zero targets and environmental sustainability are embedded in research
    • HEIs and industry to maximise their utilisation of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
    • the OfS and universities, and the future role of the OfS in collecting data on emissions and the impact on HEIs, student attitudes and expectations towards universities’ climate response
  • the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on collaboration in the study of emissions, international research in the face of reduced mobility of researchers, and development of open data and data sharing repositories in light of the increased demand brought about by work to combat coronavirus

Sustainable campuses and procedures

  • increasing the sustainability of estates, including the cutting of Scope 1 emissions outlined in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, reducing the whole-life carbon impact of estates
  • latest thinking on the design of campus buildings
  • the development by universities of climate change adaptation plans (CCAPs)
  • how institutions can respond to growing calls to reduce their Scope 3 emissions following the publication of the Green Finance Strategy
  • routes to divestment from fossil fuels, with recently published data by the NUS indicating the over 50% of UK Universities have committed to move from fossil fuels in the near future
  • procurement practices by HEIs to contribute to environmental sustainability goals and the development of more environmentally sustainable supply chains
  • the impact of implementing social distancing measures on the environmental sustainability of estates

The agenda:

  • Key findings of the Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education Leaders
  • The direction of climate policy in the UK and the role of higher education institutions
  • Embedding climate change into the HE curriculum, promoting climate research, and facilitating collaboration between departments and with other sectors
  • Divestment from fossil fuels and adopting environmentally sustainable procurement and investment
  • Designing and delivering sustainable campuses - existing estates, new developments, and creating a whole university approach
  • Supporting transformation of the research system to deliver net-zero - Funder’s Perspective

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

It’s certainly the case with this one. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; Defra; the Cabinet Office; the Department for International Trade; HM Revenue & Customs and the Welsh Government.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Rob Gillies

Associate Director Environmental Sustainability, UK Research & Innovation

Rt Hon the Lord Deben

Chairman, Committee on Climate Change

Professor James Longhurst

EAUC Commissioner and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability, University of West England


Alexander Stafford MP

Member, Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee and Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hydrogen

Lord Duncan of Springbank

Former Minister of State for Climate Change, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy


Quinn Runkle

Director of Education, Students Organising for Sustainability UK

Dave Gorman

Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability, The University of Edinburgh

Lily Tomson

Head of Networks, ShareAction

Professor Mark Ormerod

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise and Professor of Clean Technology, School of Chemistry and Physics, Keele University

Alexandra Hammond

Director, Sustainability, Essentia Trading Limited

Dr Matt Watson

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, The University of Sheffield

Professor Pete Walker

Climate Action Framework Leader, University of Bath

Professor Judith Petts

UUK Climate Commissioner and Vice Chancellor, University of Plymouth

Harriet Waters

Head of Environmental Sustainability, University of Oxford

Alasdair Young

Partner, Cities Energy, Buro Happold

Asher Minns

Executive Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

James Tiernan

Group Energy and Environment Manager, Unite Students