Making universities fit for a climate-changed future is one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Higher Education (HE) institutions are increasingly being challenged to show leadership in responding to the climate and biodiversity crises. Technological and infrastructural changes attempting to “green” university campuses remain the focus of attention. However, addressing the climate and biodiversity crises will require substantial additional changes in how universities operate and the priorities they set. All of this implies quite significant social and institutional changes. Yet, not enough attention is given to the multiple and different futures which are possible for us, nor to the social implications of the changes proposed. In particular, the role of university communities in helping to deliver a sustainable future does not typically feature in relevant discussions. However, staff, students and local communities are already attempting to address these challenges on their own terms, and can play an important role in achieving a sustainable future for the sector.

This booklet lays out four different visions for making the UEA fit for a climate changed future. The first of these visions (i.e. the Sustainable Business vision) is the result of a review of UEA’s current sustainability practices and of the official future vision statements of the institution. Three further visions (i.e. the Responsive & Equitable University, the People’s Green University, and the Post-capitalist HE Sector visions) were created by a diverse group of students, staff, and members of the local community participating in a People’s Assembly in Spring 2024 that was organised by the UKERC Public Engagement Observatory, the UEA Biodiversity & Climate Action Network (BCAN), and Faculty for a Future (F4F). They have been developed from extensive deliberation over the nature of the climate change challenge, the hoped-for futures of the institution, and the role of UEA’s community in delivering these futures.

Against a backdrop of future visioning that primarily focuses on technological and infrastructural change and on emissions reduction, in each of these visions the role of the UEA community and broader environmental, social, and economic concerns have been considered extensively. They include different forms of institutional governance and roles for the community, and are informed by different assumptions around the role(s) of universities.

Ultimately, the purpose of opening up broader environmental, social, and economic concerns in these visions is to ask: WHAT SORT OF FUTURE DO WE WANT FOR THE UEA?