VC's week – 3 June 2013 – reflections on WUN conference and signing the pledge for a sustainable University

A regular update from Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur.

Professor Michael Arthur

Along with the other members of the University’s delegation to the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) annual general meeting and conference, I returned tired but enthused after an extremely interesting and useful three days in Washington DC.

The conference was themed around one of the WUN’s Global Challenges – Public Health – in particular researching interventions for preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Several Leeds academics were amongst the 200 attendees, including Professor Darren Shickle (Leeds Institute of Health Sciences) who raised key points for discussion during a session on promoting healthy choices in early life. Professor Dawn Freshwater – Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Staff and Organisational Effectiveness – chaired the session on innovative approaches to promoting life skills, and Professor Vivien Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Education, tabled a discussion paper addressing international opportunities for taught students in a research-intensive environment. 

At the end of the conference, the discussions had identified three potential research avenues that WUN could support: health of migrant families; schools as a setting for reducing risk factors for NCDs; and understanding how individuals develop personal resilience. The next step is to follow up and consolidate the conference discussions, with a view to cementing relationships and forming some firm proposals for collaborative research projects with our WUN partners.

I also attended the grand challenge meeting on ‘Adapting to Climate Change’ where excellent progress was also evident. This topic is obviously very wide ranging, but decisions were taken to initially emphasise the importance of food security, with links to water supply and climate change adaptation. This fits well with the next WUN conference, organised by Louise Heery, our WUN coordinator and others, and hosted in Leeds this September, Adapting to Climate Change 3: Climate-smart development. If you would like further details please contact Louise AT

Back on campus this week, I finally got the opportunity to sign up and pledge my support for the It All Adds Up campaign – and this year’s focus on ‘hotspots’ – which is making a significant contribution to reducing the University’s energy use. We have a challenging target of reducing carbon emissions by 35% against the 2005/2006 level by 2020/21 – not to mention an energy bill predicted to rise to £17.5million in 2020/21 – so support and positive action from individuals is really necessary if we are to achieve our goals.

Over 1,000 colleagues and students have already made pledges to support the campaign, making commitments such as this one from Andy Lindley, an assistant supervisor – plumbing, in Corporate Services: “I will try to save energy for the benefit of the whole of the University family, no matter what your position or job, as we are all in this together and together we can make a difference”.

My pledge was to ‘ensure that sustainability is discussed at the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group and Faculty Management Group and to ensure that carbon reduction is considered in our decision making’. If you haven’t already made your pledge, I’d urge you to do it today at

It’s the Sustainability Awards this week, and I’ve absolutely no doubt that, with their commitment to sustainability, the majority of award winners will have already made their It All Adds Up pledges. More than 150 colleagues will be at the ceremony and I’m looking forward to hearing about the imaginative ways in which they are working to achieve sustainable workplace environments. The University has made huge strides towards becoming a more sustainable organisation during recent years, and we can be proud of the enthusiasm and commitment of many colleagues and students that has enabled this to happen.


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