Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (HEPS) is a partnership
of 18 United Kingdom Higher Education institutions committed to
sustainability, involved in a 3-year project coordinated by Forum
for the Future, the leading UK sustainable development charity.
The mission of HEPS is to establish a pioneering partnership group
of Higher Education institutions (HEIs) that are seen to be achieving
strategic objectives through positive engagement with the sustainable
development agenda and to generate the transferable tools, guidance
and the inspiration that will encourage the rest of the sector
to do likewise.
has come to the end of its first fully operational year. Throughout
2001 we have been recruiting partners, carrying out opening sustainability
reviews, preparing for a series of partnership wide seminars in
the autumn term and undertaking individual work with partners.
HEPS does not prescribe a model of a sustainable university and
recognises that every institution has its own unique character.
In pursuit of real, long term change driven from within, the partnership
identifies specific objectives and helps the institutions achieve
them in the most sustainable way. Enabling partners to be leaders
in the field is given a high priority by this initiative, but
so too is sharing the learning and experience of HEPS within
and beyond the HE sector.
builds especially on good practice data accumulated by the HE21
project, a Forum- led project aimed at accumulating best practice
in the Higher Education sector. Partner institutions were consulted
on a number of issues including biodiversity, resource efficiency,
community learning, waste minimisation, purchasing, transport
and environmental management systems. A series of best practice
bulletins were produced (available to download at www.heps.org.uk)
and two major conferences were held to showcase best practice
and build partnerships for the future.
for the Future also works in partnership with decision-makers
in business and local and regional government and HEPS draws upon
the experiences and expertise of colleagues working in these partnerships.
HEPS has links with the construction sector through Forums
Business Programme, and has used culture change techniques developed
by Forums Local and Regional Government Programme.
for the Futures Masters in Leadership for Sustainable Development
is a one-year full time masters course, which emphasises work-based,
experiential learning as well as reflection and cutting edge sustainability
knowledge. Among the core elements of the programme are one month
placements in organisations in six key sectors of UK society:
an NGO environment or development campaigning organisation; local
or regional government; UK or European politics; a leading business;
a regulatory or financial institution and the media. HEPS draws
on the learning techniques and experiences gained from the placements
so far in over 130 organisations in these six sectors. In particular
this provides insight into graduate skills needed by employers
as well as first hand up to date experience of how these key sectors
are contributing towards sustainable development.
are the key objectives of HEPS?
The following are the key objectives of the partnership, against
which progress is measured throughout the course of the programme:
embed a strategic approach to sus- tainable development into
create a sense of common purpose and leadership amongst the
partner institutions, to better influence the sector-wide change.
design a web-based system for Sustainability Reporting for HEIs
that has broad support in the sector and is consistent with
best practice within the sector (e.g., HE Sustainability Measures)
and beyond it (e.g., Global Reporting Initiative for business).
It will also be consonant with government policy (e.g. Sustainability
leave senior management in partner institutions with the knowledge,
motivation and skills to structure sustainability into the universitys
strategic and operational planning processes, research policies,
and curriculum planning.
build similar capacity in the HEI stakeholder community
business partners, local and regional government, funding councils
and other associated organisations, research councils, students,
complete a number of innovative partner-designated initiatives
that drive forward the agenda, demonstrating clear benefits.
develop materials and processes which are communicated and shared
with partners and others.
institutions are involved?
HEPS is a partnership between the following 18 universities and
colleges and Forum for the Future:
of St Mark & St John
John Moores University
Surrey Institute of Art & Design
of St Andrews
is supported by the Funding Councils of England, Northern Ireland,
Scotland and Wales. The funds being made available over three
years total over £750,000. Each participating institution
is contracted to bring to the partnership in-kind
contributions amounting to at least £10,000 per year. This
includes staff time and the use of facilities for meetings and
events. This brings the total value of the scheme to over £1.47
does HEPS work in practice?
The partnership is steered by a group of representatives from
universities, funding councils, the national student body, the
private sector, regional government and Forum for the Future.
Commitment to active engagement in the universities is agreed
at the Vice-Chancellor or Principal level, with overall management
residing with a member of the senior management team.
has two strategies to promote sector wide change by working closely
with the institutions to help them achieve their objectives in
a sustainable way and also to influence a broad spectrum of other
A- Driving change from within
The programme for each partner institution begins with an Opening
Sustainability Review to assess expectations about the partnership
in order to design a work programme tailored to the strategic
objectives of the institution. Representatives from the senior
management team, operational staff, academics and students attend
this one-day event. The review reflects on the role of universities
and colleges as:
which form and inform tomorrows (and todays) leaders
and decision-makers through teaching and research agendas;
of major businesses where prudent use of resources not only
saves money but safeguards reputations;
actors in local communities and regional development
as employer, purchaser, service user and provider.
work programme is then delivered through three types of activities:
Work Programmes Individual initiatives are identified
by each institution and the HEPS team helps facilitate these
through background research, networking, report writing and
visits to the institution.
Wide Initiatives The HEPS partners identify a number
of key themes to be addressed by all. For each theme HEPS undertakes
research, holds workshops for the partners, organises seminars
for the sector and other key players and finally produces appropriate
guidance to accelerate sector wide change.
Reporting HEPS is developing a framework and process
for tracking progress and communicating outcomes on key sustainability
issues. This will enable each institution to measure and communicate
its own progress towards sustainability. Research and seminars
will be held in 2002 to develop this area of work with the intention
of a web-based sustainability reporting system to be available
by the end of 2003.
Influencing the external forces
HEPS has identified several key external players including funding
councils, other arms of government, Professional Associations,
Trade Unions, research councils and other funders, auditors and
assessors. The HEPS team is building up a bank of key contacts
within each of these organisations to monitor their activities,
involve them in the partnership where appropriate and influence
policy where possible. A recent outcome of this is HEPS involvement
in developing a framework for the new sustainable development
strategy group, which the Professional Associations for Higher
Education have agreed to set up.
has HEPS achieved so far?
Opening Sustainability Reviews
A day has been spent in all 18 partner institutions with representatives
from senior management, estates, academic and administrative arms
to introduce the concept of sustainable development, identify
the institutions key drivers and barriers to incorporating
sustainability and highlight potential areas of work with HEPS.
Each institution has selected a few key themes to develop individually
through HEPS. In areas of common interest, clusters are forming
to share experiences across the partnership. City University,
Middlesex University and the Surrey Institute of Art and Design
(all located in the South East of England) recently convened to
share their experiences of using various techniques to embed sustainable
development into their strategic planning processes. Partners
have also expressed interest in forming clusters to work on staff
development, waste management and identifying the key drivers
for a university or college to contribute to sustainable development.
Sustainable procurement, construction and travel were given particular
attention in 2001 (see Table 1). The events listed in Table 1
were attended by approximately 200 delegates from the HEPS partners
(with representatives from senior management, estates, academics,
administration, students and local communities), other Higher
Education Institutions, funding councils, local government, business,
experts in the field, consultants, practitioners and others.
1: Partnership wide initiatives in 2001.
research of partners and regulators policies and practices
workshops for HEPS partners, 2 seminars for wider audience
guidance on sustainable construction for new buildings and
refurbishment; considering position statement to build consensus
on the issues
completed by partners to identify policy and practice
workshops for HEPS partners, 2 seminars with exhibitions for
guidance on how to promote sustainable travel across an institution
with future integration into Resource Management initiative
for HEPS partners procurement officers
guidelines for sustainable procurement and future integration
into Finance initiative
The individual work programmes will continue in each institution
with a greater degree of clustering. Major themes
to be addressed partnership wide are sustainable resource management,
finance, communication and sustainability reporting. (Details
of these initiatives will be posted on www.heps.org.uk
in January 2002.)
more information, go to www.heps.
org.uk or www.forumforthefuture.org.uk;
The greatest challenge so far in making the Higher Education Partnership
for Sustainability a success is the lack of available resources
within each institution to move initiatives forward. Hence there
is a continual emphasis on helping partner institutions achieve
their existing strategic objectives in the most efficient way
using existing infrastructure and staff. The most successful aspect
of the programme to date is the momentum gained through sharing
and consensus building across the partnership and beyond.
Forum for the Future, 227a City Road, London EC1V 1JT, United Kingdom.
Buckland and Fiona Brookes are HEPS project coordinators. Ms.
Buckland can be reached at h.buckland@
forumforthefuture.org.uk; Tel: 44-207-477-7712; Fax: 44-207-251-6268.
Seddon has lead responsibility for the Masters/Scholarship Programme
in Leadership for Sustainable Development.
Andy Johnston is the Assistant Director of the Higher Education
Partnership for Sustainability.
Parkin is one of Forums founding Programme Directors and
has set up the Forums Leadership for Sustainability Masters
Programme and its Directory of Sustainability in Practice.
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