Government funding to reward greenest universities

Universities that deliver deepest emission cuts to be rewarded with best capital funding deals

The government is planning to link the funding available to universities and colleges with their performance in reducing carbon emissions.

Universities secretary John Denham said yesterday that energy efficiency and emission reduction would be key priorities in a forthcoming government plan to build a framework for the future of higher education over the next 10 to 15 years. He confirmed that it planned to link success in cutting emissions to funding agreements from 2011.

In his annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Denham asked the Council to set out a strategy for curbing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

"Last year, I set out our ambition that capital funding for institutions should be linked to performance in reducing emissions," he wrote. "Following your advice to me, I am now confirming that such links should be in place for 2011-12."

He added that while the higher education sector had originally been asked to deliver a strategy to cut emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 and 26 per cent by 2020, the 60 per cent target had now been raised to 80 per cent in line with the government's wider climate change bill.

Denham also urged universities and colleges to begin emission reduction investments as soon as possible, writing that he hoped "that some of the capital expenditure I have asked you to bring forward into 2009-10 will support strategic, long-term action to tackle climate change".

In addition to calling on universities to take direct action to curb emissions, Denham also urged the HEFCE to step up efforts to remove barriers to research partnerships between universities and businesses, particularly in clean tech-related fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Mr Denham said: "One of my main priorities for the Council in 2009 is to support and encourage the sector to use all its huge capacity to train, research, innovate and inspire, reaching into local communities to offer practical help to individuals and businesses through these tougher economic times while laying the foundations for the future."

The government provides the HEFCE with £7.8bn a year to fund teaching and research at the country's universities and colleges. This is the first time it has indicated linking capital funding with performance in reducing emissions.

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