Higher Education Funding Council for England

Partnering student activism with academic expertise

Wednesday 29-01-2014 - 16:50
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Students are renowned for their dedication to social activism, with sustainability becoming more and more important to our movement.

Alongside this, the institutions which these students attend are the world’s primary sources of academic knowledge, and cutting edge environmental research.

It’s easy to think of these things as being unrelated, but the University of Exeter Students’ Guild is changing that for the better. Students’ Green Unit brings student activism into partnership with academic support, creating the most high impact student-led environmental solutions possible.

The project is run by a team of four paid interns – recent graduates of the University of Exeter – who help facilitate partnerships between students with a green idea, and an academic mentor who can best support them in realising their vision.

First year archaeology and anthropology student Ellie Pilcher is developing a project called Energywise, based around responsible electricity consumption. She recently had her first meeting with two academic mentors, leaving all three of them optimistic about collaborating successfully over the year ahead.

“I've always been interested in sustainability but never really had the chance to make much of an impact in the past”, Ellie said. “This was the perfect opportunity”

Helping to provide this opportunity is Stewart Barr, an associative geography professor acting as one of Ellie’s mentors. He explains that “my main contribution will be to offer my expertise as someone who has worked for some years now on environmental communication and in particular forms of social marketing, which seeks to use well-known marketing techniques and insights to promote a social good”

The targeted support from academics doesn’t only inspire students like Ellie to act on their ideas in the first place, but ensures that they’re delivered to the highest possible standard of success.

Alongside Ellie’s scheme, Students’ Green Unit is facilitating a wide breadth of other collaborative projects with the support of nearly 20 academics. The projects range from improving biodiversity, to promoting green fashion, to minimising waste across campus.

Across all of the projects, Students’ Green Unit makes new partnerships between students and academics, matching activism with expertise. With Students’ Green Fund committed to embedding sustainability into the core purpose of higher education, these new links are invaluable – helping academic research to become a powerful force for social good.

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