Green light for Leicester

The 12th Green Gown Awards were a triumphant celebration of higher and further education’s sustainable future, says Hannah Oakman

From gospel choirs to art-deco surroundings, this year’s Green Gown Awards, brought to us by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), were a wonderful acknowledgement to everything great and green in the UK’s higher and further education sector.  

Held at the Athena, Leicester, a suitably grand and recently refurbished 1930s cinema, the 2016 awards were held in partnership with De Montfort University (DMU) and the University of Leicester. 

The Awards always attract the best and brightest entries from across the sector; this year featured 21 winners and 26 highly commended entries from 115 finalists representing a phenomenal 1.5 million students and 240,000 staff.

Around 390 sustainability leaders from across universities and colleges joined together, not only to wine, dine and network but also to applaud true sustainability excellence within tertiary education. 

The evening was hosted by Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business, Marks & Spencer, as well as Visiting Fellow at the Smith Centre for Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University. A passionate advocate of sustainability within the business community, he implored the crowd to take ever-stronger steps to go green in their own institutions. He commented: “It’s no longer enough to be a ‘less bad organisation’, focused on preventing the worst environmental and social excesses. Every higher and further education establishment needs to be thinking about how we radically change our approach to education, commerce and politics to create a future that is low carbon, equal and committed to the wellbeing of all.” 

“The Green Gown Awards help identify these sustainability best practices and encourage the wider higher and further education system to scale up their use.” 

The Awards always bring forth a huge range of inspirational projects and this year was no exception. One particularly noteworthy winner was the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) with a fantastic four Awards in total. 

On Assistant Vice-Chancellor Jim Longhurst’s Leadership Award, Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor at UWE commented: “UWE is committed to embedding sustainability in everything we do particularly within the curricula. The award of a Leadership Green Gown is welcome external recognition of our efforts and, in particular, the excellent leadership role that Jim has played in our journey towards becoming a sustainable university.”

Royal Agricultural University won an impressive two Awards, for their role in nurturing students to embrace sustainability, both social and environmental, offering them opportunities to put such theories as corporate sustainability and ethical leadership into practice. 

Professor Chris Gaskell MBE, Vice-Chancellor, commented: “It is a fantastic achievement for us at the Royal Agricultural University to be recognised for our enterprise activities. We aim to foster and support an enterprising spirit within our student and alumni populations, and also to involve the local community.”

The University of Plymouth won a fifth Green Gown Award, confirming its status as a pioneer of sustainability in higher education. Professor Judith Petts, Vice-Chancellor, hailed the latest award, saying: “This Award further enhances our reputation as an international leader in sustainability research, education and campus management. It recognises our commitment to sharing our sustainability story with stakeholders, and to inspiring and helping others to become more sustainable.”

Reflecting on this year’s Awards, EAUC Chief Executive Iain Patton added: “Sustainability makes business sense and this year’s inspiring initiatives prove that sustainability benefits staff, students, the wider community and of course the bottom line. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists for their hard work. It was wonderful to celebrate their successes in Leicester.”

The evening’s entertainment included live music from the fabulous De Montfort University Gospel Choir (current reigning UK University Gospel Choir Champions) and the University of Leicester’s Blue Groove Sextet, topped off by an enthusiastically received disco. Altogether a fitting and fun celebration of the best sustainability initiatives on offer…

To view the winners of this years’ Green Gown Awards please visit

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