February 2017 – What with being in New Zealand again, I wanted to make the most of the trip and meet others working in similar roles to me (at the University of Cambridge) around sustainability efforts. Here’s what is going on at Victoria University in Wellington.
Who? Andrew Wilks, Sustainability Manager
Where? Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
When? 19th January 2017
What? At Victoria University, they are just embarking on the start of a new University-wide strategy, where sustainability is embedded as one of the core themes. It comes after a new Vice-Chancellor joined two years ago, creating a new role of Assistant VC for sustainability. Andrew has moved from Facilities to the Strategy Office and now has two additional colleagues working on the sustainability agenda as their full time remit too.
As Andrew says, they are in a great position now with this strategic and leadership support – they just have to get to work. Andrew listed out four current priority areas, mostly strategic in nature. The first is to finish the sustainability strategy and reporting framework to guide their work. The second is to finish reviewing the teaching programme, in order to work out how best to integrate sustainability into the curriculum (Andrew mentioned how he has been trying to get sustainability linked into the teaching and research side of the University for the last few years so this should help create a game changer). Third is a high profile event coming up on the Sustainable Development Goals involving business, civil society and government. Finally they will be looking to develop a carbon strategy as part of the wider sustainability strategy. They have determined their two over-riding factors for what initiatives to focus on are influence and visibility – in order to create maximum impact in minimum time.
All of this work on sustainability will be in the context of a University-wide aim to double numbers of staff and students. There are currently 17,500 full-time students. I wondered what effect this would have on sustainability metrics, knowing that rationalizing use of space is a key focus for us at Cambridge. However, Andrew explained how making efficient use of space is very much within their culture. In the 1990s Victoria made a big push to increase numbers, but without increasing the floor area. A lot of resource goes into timetabling; lectures take place between 7.30am and 6.30pm. (As a comparison, in Cambridge, the vast majority of lectures take place between 9am and 12pm). In addition, they will only start building once they have proven their ability to attract the numbers, and will continue to optimise their use of space.
I will be interested to follow their progress!