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Durham University

University and City: Growing together

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Creating a more sustainable future

(29 April 2021)

Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge highlights our work to create a more sustainable future which saw us placed 87th of universities globally for contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In my last column, I mentioned that Durham University had recently enjoyed success in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 – with two subjects placed in the world top 10, another six in the top 50 and a further ten in 51-100 bracket.

So I hope you’ll forgive me for beginning this month with another league table. I hope you’ll agree it’s an important one.

Last week, the Times Higher Education announced its Global Impact Rankings 2021, which score universities on their contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Durham placed 87th in the world overall, and in the top 100 for nine of the 17 individual SDGs.

We’re proud of this achievement because it reflects our commitment to a more sustainable future, which we’re working hard to achieve on our campus; in our region in partnership with you, our neighbours; and across the globe.

What we're doing...

Our Environmental Sustainability action plan commits us to zero net loss of biodiversity across our estate and everyone is welcome to enjoy our beautiful Botanic Garden (now, I’m pleased to say, open again following its Covid closure).

We’re supporting sustainable travel through investing in new footpaths and cycle paths around our estate and we’re preserving and celebrating our cultural heritage including through our libraries, museums and role in the Durham World Heritage Site.

Further afield, our academics are working on sustainable urban drainage in South Moor, in north-west County Durham; communicating flood risk in Corbridge, Northumberland; and a £7m renewable energy project to heat homes in South Tyneside.

And globally we’re working on major challenges such as decarbonising energy, protecting soil health and harnessing wind energy in Africa.

Of course, there is more we can do – and want to do. This is the first time Durham has entered the top 100 and we want to keep improving. We look forward to working with you even more in future, in order to ensure it’s a future we can all be proud of.

The Poitiers Declaration

Another highlight of the past month for me was joining the Chairman of Durham County Council in (virtually) signing the Poitiers Declaration, an initiative of the Coimbra Group of universities which recognises how important it is for universities to support their local communities and helps member universities to share best practice in doing so.

A great example of this kind of work followed just a few days later, with the announcement that our Durham Internships and Collaborative Enterprise (DICE) project had brought in over £3.3 million in value to its participants in its first three years.

Run jointly with Durham County Council, DICE aims to support start-ups, scale-ups and local Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) through a subsidised internship programme, the Durham City Incubator (DCI) and enterprise activities for our students.

Three-quarters of participating SMEs enjoyed business growth and two-thirds have been able to develop new products or services as a result of their involvement.

DICE is now moving on to a new phase so if you’re a business or entrepreneur, please do get in touch: SME.internships@durham.ac.uk.

This week marked the start of our Easter Term, and our students are preparing for exams – which will again take place online – to begin from Monday 10th May. For the latest information on our coronavirus planning, please visit: www.durham.ac.uk/coronavirus