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St Andrews Shoots Upwards in Sustainability Rankings

It was recently announced that the University is in the Top 100 of the QS World University Rankings for Sustainability in 2024, making it a leading institution in socially and environmentally sustainable practices. St Andrews rose 57 places — from 143 to 86 — due to an improved score in several performance categories: environmental research, social impact, health and wellbeing, knowledge exchange, and equality. 

The rankings not only address the impact of universities’ educational delivery, but also acknowledge that universities represent major employers and operate as centres of research. For example, universities play a role in spearheading environmental technologies as well as helping societies progress toward reducing pollution and emissions. The rankings therefore look beyond academic results and consider the legacy of an institution when it comes to so-called “existential challenges”.

Derek Watson, University of St Andrews Chief Operating Officer (COO), reflected that “this result demonstrates the thoughtful and intentional engagement with sustainability right across all University operations. We are incredibly proud of this achievement and, while we have more work to do, this is an encouraging indicator that we are moving in the right direction.”

Watson manages the University’s environment strategy, which is to work toward becoming net zero by 2035, 10 years ahead of the Scottish Government’s target. The strategy also has targets in place for becoming “Nature Positive” and “Climate Adaptive”, meaning the university will better protect biodiversity and minimise waste. So far, the University’s carbon footprint has been reduced by 15 per cent, 25 per cent of buildings are supplied with clean energy from the University’s Eden Campus biomass, and more than 1000 trees have been planted. Additionally, a “Sustainable Investments” policy has been launched to guide the management of university endowment funds.

QS CEO Jessica Turner highlighted how important this achievement will be to some students, suggesting that when young people choose a university, their choice “represents a lifelong affiliation, deeply intertwined with personal identity, and social awareness.” Many students consider sustainability important, sometimes weighing it heavily in their university decision process. Turner continued, “This demonstrates a clear shift in priorities among today’s students, who are increasingly weighing the social and environmental impact of their future alma mater alongside academic excellence.”

Image by Jack Dalgleish

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