Universities link with UN environment programme

Britain’s Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges has signed a three-year agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme under UNEP’s Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability scheme.

As a follow-up to the Rio+20 Summit, UNEP recently convened the first session of the historic United Nations Environment Assembly earlier this month. The assembly has established a platform for leadership on global environmental policy, with the participation of all 193 UN member states.

The global universities partnership scheme, known as GUPES, is intended to foster closer linkages between UNEP’s policy domain and universities across the globe.

It is one of the flagship programmes of UNEP’s environmental education and training unit and was the result of a forum organised by UNEP and its partners in Nairobi in 2010 to consider ways of escalating UNEP’s engagement with universities.

GUPES builds on the successes of Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in African Universities or MESA, the nascent Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in the Caribbean Universities or MESCA, and the Asia-Pacific Regional University Consortium.

More than 430 universities and regional partners from five continents are part of the growing GUPES network.

Green Gown Awards

The British association says the new agreement will put its Green Gown Awards before a global audience: “The Green Gown Awards recognise exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by Britain’s universities and colleges.

"The awards cover all aspects of educational institutions – from their teaching and research, leadership, buildings and food to how students can benefit the quality of life in the communities around them,” the association says.

The awards are now in their 10th year and their fifth in Australasia. Following the launch of French-speaking awards this month, the association says the partnership with UNEP will expand the awards further across the globe “with an emphasis on profiling and learning from the southern hemisphere.

“The partnership will also bring together our members and the GUPES network around three key pillars of activities – education, training and networking. We will be delivering training and networking opportunities to radically increase the sharing of the southern and northern hemispheres' understanding on what sustainability means for an education institution.

“As well as recognising good practice and learning from each other, we will also be working with UNEP to encourage universities and colleges, both in the UK and worldwide, to measure their sustainability performance.”

The association says it is working with its partners on the Platform for Sustainability Performance in Education, which was launched during an earlier session of UNEP’s governing council in Nairobi, to improve how universities and colleges measure, monitor and improve their sustainability performance.

The platform brings together organisations that have created sustainability assessment tools designed to support universities and colleges around the world. It is also designed to assist commitments of Higher Education Sustainable Initiative signatories by providing a range of tools and options in assessing and improving their sustainability performance. Go to for more information.