The importance of the student voice in sustainability

Posted on: 8 April, 2024

Here at UCEM, there are ample opportunities for our students to share feedback about their experiences through things like Programme Representatives, module evaluations and the National Student Survey. The voice of our leaners helps us as an institution to identify both what is working well and how we can make enhancements to current and future students’ experiences.

Sustainability is part of our core purpose, and the student voice is essential to informing our institution-wide approach. Previous results from 2021/22 and 2022/2023 have been utilised to inform sustainability student initiatives, including the increase to two Climate and Social Action Weeks per academic calendar year, and the Alumni Lifelong Influencing Plan (ALIP).

Learn more: Join UCEM for Climate and Social Action Week 22-26 April

Student Officers and Ambassadors

At UCEM we have volunteer Student Officer for Sustainability and Student Ambassador for EDI roles to help ensure that students are at the centre of our work. Members of staff collaborate with our Officers and Ambassadors to deliver events, activities and information for students, staff, alumni and the wider community.

Learn more: Introducing – our Student Officers for Sustainability

Responsible Futures

As part of our commitment to the Responsible Futures programme we have a Responsible Futures Working Group, which is open to a combination of students and staff. They have the opportunity to come together, feed back and create ideas of how we can enhance sustainability at UCEM.

We’re audited on Responsible Futures every two years via a student-led audit. This is when UCEM students get to hold us to account and examine the evidence we put forward for an array of criteria from formal learning to community work.

Learn more: Meet this year’s Responsible Futures Working Group

National Student Survey (NSS)

The NSS is part of our annual survey schedule. It includes three questions about sustainability:

  • My institution encourages good environmental practice
  • My course has encouraged me to think about environmental sustainability
  • I have had opportunities to take part in activities supporting environmental sustainability

Scores in these areas are generally high with the largest variations in scores across programmes around having the opportunity to engage with sustainability.

To help address this and enhance the student experience we have:

  • Made changes to the sustainability session during student orientation/welcome back to include information about UCEM’s sustainability and related opportunities students can engage with during their studies.
  • Increased the number of our Climate and Social Action Weeks (previously Go Green Week) to two per academic year. Our next one will be taking place between 22-26 April 2024.
  • Raised staff awareness about sustainability initiatives through a variety of staff platforms.

This year’s NSS is currently open. Once we have the results, we’ll be combining it with the findings from our Student Experience Survey and Skills Survey to gain a full picture of current student perceptions and experiences on sustainability at UCEM.

Complete the survey >

Skills Survey

We carry out the SOS-UK Skills Survey on a bi-annual basis to capture students’ attitudes, knowledge, experiences and behaviours on sustainability as part of our commitment to the Responsible Futures programme. We have done this four times now, most recently in October/November 2023. We were grateful to receive 311 responses to the survey. Here are some highlights:

  • 77% of respondents say that UCEM is taking action to limit the negative impact it has on the environment and society which has increased from 70% in 2021.
  • 90% think that universities and colleges should promote sustainable development.
  • 71% want to learn more about sustainable development.
  • 79% said that it was important that their future employer makes a difference in social and environmental issues.

To begin to address these findings, we have presented the results from the 2023 NSS, SES and Skills Survey to students and staff in the Responsible Futures Working Group.

We have since devised some short and long-term actions that could support future scores. Our next steps will be:

  • Disseminating the findings across the institution
  • Utilising feedback to identify themes for student initiatives schedule 2024/25
  • Co-creating a new survey with students ready for Autumn 2025
  • Continuing to raise awareness of sustainability work through student and staff communication platforms

Jessica Gordon-Calvert, UCEM’s Sustainability Education and Engagement Officer, who worked with UCEM colleagues and SOS-UK to launch the survey, commented:

“Acquiring the learner voice is an integral component of our work on sustainability. I’m very pleased that the results from the Skills Survey have started to demonstrate the impact of our ongoing work and also help us identify where we need to make enhancements. I look forward to continuing to work with students, colleagues and alumni to make improvements here at UCEM.”

Fortunate Mukombo, Student Officer for Sustainability, said:

“Student voice is the heartbeat of any educational institution, especially when it comes to sustainability initiatives. At UCEM, the presence of Student Officer roles and platforms like the Skills Survey not only empowers students but also ensures that their experiences, thoughts, and ideas are integral to shaping the institution’s sustainability efforts.

“By providing a direct channel for students to voice their perspectives, UCEM not only fosters a sense of ownership in sustainability initiatives but also gains invaluable insights that can drive meaningful change within the institution and beyond.”

How to get involved as a current student

If you haven’t already, please complete this year’s NSS (closing date Tuesday 30 April).

Complete the survey >

We will soon be recruiting for a variety of Student Officer positions (e.g. Sustainability, Women, Mature, Inclusion) for the next academic year. If you’re interested and would like more information, please email

If you want to learn more about our sustainability student initiatives, or have any feedback, ideas or suggestions regarding UCEM’s sustainability, activity please email