The value of 8,000 Bristol students working with 250 city partners on sustainability engagement has been recognised by a prestigious International Green Gown award.
In 2015 the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol worked together with their respective Student Unions and key stakeholders, such as the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, to provide their students with opportunities to contribute to Bristol's year as European Green Capital.
With funding of £248,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the project Green Capital Student Capital saw a wide range of student-community activities flourish, with universities providing a multitude of opportunities to work with local groups and businesses.
Having won an Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) national Green Gown award in 2016, the project has now beaten off stiff competition from universities around the world to become the International Green Gown prize-winner for Student Engagement.
In total, students gave over 140,000 hours of their time back to Bristol. Their activities included helping local NGOs write business plans, volunteering in wildlife conservation groups, delivering lessons on sustainability in primary schools and many others.
EAUC judges said:
"This is a dynamic city-wide project that has it all; with high levels of student engagement, curricular and extra-curricular activity… It clearly demonstrates a sustainable model for student engagement and is a very worthy winner. Partnership is the new leadership.”
Chris Willmore, Professor of Sustainability and Law, and project co-ordinator, said:
"This is a wonderful achievement. This project demonstrates the value of higher education and the student community as a real force for sustainability action. We would like to thank everyone in the city who brought their ideas, energy and resources to this initiative – this is your award too."
Opportunities remain for communities to engage with students. The project created an online platform, Skills Bridge, with an enquiry form for organisations to suggest new ideas for student-community engagement projects around sustainability.
In the words of EAUC's Chief Executive, Iain Patton:
"We have to find new ways of showing the world the power of education as a solution to our social and economic problems. These awards tell the story of how young people are not only wanting to make the world a better place but rolling their sleeves up and doing it."
Visit International Green Gown Awards for more information.