As sustainability has become a norm in academic life in the UAE, effective green solutions have taken root on many campuses. From installing solar panels to integrating environmental protection into courses, higher education institutions in the country have embarked on an eco-friendly path.
Speaking with ESG Mena, a number of heads of universities shared their success stories in green projects and student-led sustainable projects.
Amity University Dubai has set a target to develop alternative sources of energy to run its sprawling campus in Dubai International Academic City, according to the university’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dr Fazal Malik.
“We have covered the roof of our massive campus with solar panels, which have now been extended to the car parks and other parts of the university to generate solar energy,” Dr Malik told ESG Mena.
Amity University Dubai has also introduced mandatory courses in the syllabus to empower students with the knowledge and competencies to practise environmental protection and sustainability, he said.
Dr Malik added that “at the moment, energy generated by the university’s solar plant runs our hostels, all lobbies, food court, all lifts, laboratories and studios”.
The solar system is installed as per DEWA guidelines and the excess units are exported to the DEWA grid and the same number of units is then deducted from the university’s monthly bill. “This way we not only support our campus but also supply surplus units to the DEWA grid, and in the process reduce our monthly bills,” Dr Malik said.
He also noted that the university is running a bachelor’s programme in Solar and Alternate Energy. “The project has been a great platform to raise awareness of the student community about the need to explore alternative sources of energy to save the environment. Students use the data from this initiative for their projects and research papers in association with their faculty members,” he added.
The Amity University plant has 605.1 KWp solar capacity at the moment, but plans are underway to double this, according to Dr Malik.
Meanwhile, the American University of Sharjah has a team dedicated to sustainability, with Rose Armour as its head.
“AUS participates in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)… It allows us to focus on the traditional ESG standards and ensure that we are being held accountable for incorporating sustainability in the university’s teaching and research,” Armour said.
The university is also committed to addressing climate change and is working to reduce our carbon emissions in line with the UAE’s pledge to be net zero by 2050, she noted.
“AUS conducts annual greenhouse gas studies and has implemented a Climate Action Plan to monitor and reduce our campus emissions,” Armour added.
At Heriot-Watt University Dubai, students “were recently awarded the James Dyson Award for designing a system that stores rainwater in the wet season to control bushfires in the dry season as part of the competition.
“Such participation opportunities are greatly rewarding for students and can significantly stimulate innovation,” said the university’s COO Dr Matthew Sukumaran.
The university’s campus is also LEED certified and has a Global Environmental Sustainability Group, which meets regularly to help develop its ESG strategy.
Dr Sukumaran highlighted the university’s “Engineer for a Day” workshop series, aimed at giving students an insight into multiple engineering disciplines. It regularly focuses on providing students with the opportunity to understand how technology is moving at pace towards the pathway to net zero, he said.
With a focus on plastic recycling, Middlesex University Dubai is moulding fashion studies students to contribute towards an equitable industry.
Andrew Mackenzie, Head of the Institute of Sustainable Development, said: “The Simply Bottles initiative led by ISD, which encourages students to recycle their plastic bottles around campus in support of a circular economy, has so far diverted 250,000 bottles from landfill. Several of our BA Honours Fashion Design students won the first, second and third prizes at the 2021 Fashion Revolution UAE Student Competition, which focuses on the equitable fashion industry, as well as the second prize in 2022.”
The university partnered with Light It Forward UAE to raise awareness of protecting the planet at the Expo 2020, where students and faculty built solar lamps.