How universities can map a sustainable future

Universities are a hotbed for international students, so how can they map a sustainable future to attract oversees students?

Students who increasingly want sustainable universities and accommodation providers - Glide | PBSA News

By Sean Lowry, CTO, Glide Group

As we near 2022, prospective students from around the globe will be evaluating their academic futures. This comes following the impact of Covid-19, which delayed many people’s decisions to go to university over the past two years, especially on an international level. Universities are typically a hotbed for international students who are looking to fly the nest by spending a few years learning in a different country. However, worldwide lockdowns and closed borders quickly put a halt to any of those plans. Now, as the world continues to recover from the pandemic, universities need not worry about a lack of international students if history is anything to go by.

According to Bonard, student mobility only continues to increase in times of economic crisis. Why is this? There are multiple reasons, but the most prominent appears to be that people are unwilling to defer higher education past a certain age. Furthermore, in an economic crisis – where job opportunities quickly become scarce – would-be students want to improve their chances against the competition. A degree tends to help. Covid-19 has caused an economic downturn across the globe, and with cross-border travel being significantly limited over the past 18 months, universities should be preparing for an influx of international students who have caught the travel bug.

Students seek sustainability

Once this appetite for travel returns, higher education institutions need to find ways to give themselves an advantage over the competition when it comes to attracting students. One such solution would come from implementing more sustainable practices.

According to research undertaken by Opinium, a third of students surveyed agree that they would not apply to a university that has a poor track record on climate change. Furthermore, 63% of students think it should be compulsory for their student accommodation provider or landlord to help them live in an environmentally friendly manner.

Minimising carbon operations and maximising sustainable fibre

Aiming to minimise a university’s carbon footprint can be quite a broad and challenging task, especially when it comes to finding ways in which these universities can also help their students to remain sustainable. It is also important that this is achieved without sacrificing the student experience. Hundreds of universities are already implementing sustainability initiatives, for example, the University of Bristol pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030, having already cut down its carbon emissions by 27%. It is no doubt a significant challenge, but by laying smart fibre infrastructure, universities can take strides towards net-zero.

By deploying sustainable fibre, institutions can reduce energy waste through space-efficient infrastructure, which enables submetering, managed thermostats and environment sensors. This, in turn, creates sustainable living environments that can be controlled by students through cutting-edge technology.

Residents can have access to sustainable full-fibre Gigabit internet anywhere in the building, operating over infrastructure that consumes significantly less energy. Not only does this facilitate more sustainable living for students, but with reliable internet connectivity throughout the building, their overall experience is only improved.

Where legacy systems consume large amounts of electricity, require cooling and monitoring equipment, as well as network switches, fibre networks can be run from a single comms cabinet, minimising wasted space or energy. By installing submetering in buildings, universities can also provide students with more accurate bills, data and energy output information. Occupancy sensors can ensure lights are only on in occupied spaces, creating significant savings on lighting systems. Furthermore, installing individual smart meters against devices such as air conditioning helps operators to monitor energy consumption and continually make operational improvements.

Preparing for the future

Students from around the globe will be taking virtual tours and attending open days as they envision the next few years of their life. With a stronger focus on sustainability, a new priority needs to be added to universities’ priority lists. By providing smart infrastructure within purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), universities allow students to manage their own carbon footprint, while enjoying a high quality student experience of reliable connectivity and seamless control of their home. With universities eager to welcome more people back to their campuses, this infrastructure can be a game changer when it comes to attracting international students.