Whenever I start to write an article, I have a pretty clear idea of what I intend to say, and more often than not, the finished product reflects that plan. Occasionally, however, once I start, I find myself wandering in a different direction, and that is what happened here.
I have written beforei about the endless stream of “green” conferences organised by Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum (“WEET”). Recently I was alerted to yet another conference, to be held on 14th July 2022, this time about “Next steps for net-zero Higher Education”. It’s nothing if not comprehensive, offering to cover “Sector strategy, progress, estates, travel, university culture, research practices, investment, procurement, and financial impact”.
My initial plan was to analyse the agenda, and to critique it, since there’s plenty to have a go at. However, analysing the agenda meant considering the lead speakers at each stage, and that in turn saw me considering the Universities they represent. And so things turned out a little differently from my original plan.
The agenda certainly covers a wide variety of issues, with topics for discussion embracing four main areas: Campuses and practises; Procurement; Finance; and Strategy & next steps. The agenda sees opening remarks from the Chair (Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, former Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales), and the first main agenda item is “Priorities for the HE sector’s role in sustainability and climate action”. This is to be led by Professor Judith Petts, Vice-Chancellor, University of Plymouth and Chair, Universities UK Climate Task and Finish Group. I suppose this makes sense – see below.
The University of Plymouth
A quick visit to the website of the University of Plymouth saw me confronted in short order by “Time for action to address the climate emergency”ii. Here I learn that “We [the University of Plymouth] are ranked 9th in the world out of all the institutions featured in the tables for our efforts in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 17: partnerships for the goals.”
And there’s more: “Plymouth takes the lead as universities commit to climate action”iii. “Plymouth named among world’s top universities for marine excellence and climate action”. I could go on – there are many other similar links on the website – but you get the picture. Unfortunately (and in saying this I cast no aspersions on foreign students, only on the “carbon footprints” associated with them) the University of Plymouth seems rather keen on the money to be made by attracting lots of international students. The website tells usiv “We are pleased to welcome international students into our community.” Clearly they are, since elsewhere on the websitev we learn: “At the University of Plymouth, we have a thriving international community made up of 2000 students from over 100 different countries.” Which is great, since one of the benefits of being at university is to learn, and learning can be subliminal and social as well as direct and academic. However, I do see a problem, which the University itself fails to recognise. 2,000 students travelling backwards and forwards to Plymouth from all over the world must involve a sizeable “carbon footprint”. Admittedly, compared to many UK universities, that’s a relatively small proportion of the total (I gather there are over 18,000 students at the University of Plymouth – it’s big business, these days, the University tells us that it has an annual turnover of £239.4M), but it’s a sufficiently large number that it can’t – or shouldn’t – simply be ignored while boasting about the University’s “green” credentials and banging on about climate change.
All of which leads, I think, fairly neatly, into the second agenda item: “The future for travel and mobility – carbon budgets, international students and study, academic networking and conferences, and changing institutional culture”. Of the three speakers dealing with this section, two are representatives of Universities – Professor Janice Kay, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter, and Professor Rachael Rothman, Academic Lead for Sustainability, University of Sheffield.
The University of Exeter
The mismatch now becomes even more pronounced. The website of the University of Exeter tells usvi that it has “25,000 students, including 5,450 international students from 140 countries.” Both as a proportion and in terms of absolute numbers, that puts the University of Plymouth in the shade. In fairness, the University of Exeter’s website is much less “in your face” than the website for the University of Plymouth when it comes to banging on about “climate action” and the like.
The University of Sheffield
It gets even worse (or better, depending on your point of view) when it comes to the University of Sheffield. According to its websitevii: “Our global reputation for teaching and research attracts more than 29,000 international students from over 150 countries”.
There’s plenty of climate change stuff on this website too. Things like “The University’s research and partnerships are focused on finding solutions to the climate emergency, providing sustainable careers paths to students, and helping to bring green job opportunities to South Yorkshire” and much, much more.
Anyway, that number of international students at Sheffield woke me from my slumber. If a single UK university can attract more than 29,000 international students, I wondered how many there are across all of the UK universities. Thanks to the wonders of the internetviii, I can tell you:
Just recently, the UK has hit its 600,000 international student target a decade earlier than hoped!
I understand the financial benefits to Universities, I understand the contribution to UK employment levels and I understand the benefit to the UK’s balance of payments. In many ways, it’s good news. However, given that you cannot visit a University website without being lectured at great length about climate change, the idea that Universities should be actively aiming massively to increase international travel (the vast bulk of which will presumably be by air, since of that number, 465,225 are students from outside the EU, of whom more than 228,000 hail from China and India) seems more than a little odd. To complete this picture:
According to 2020/2021 statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, there are currently 605,130 international students pursuing their degrees in the UK. The number has experienced an increase from the previous year’s statistics which encompassed a total of 556,625 international students.
Compared to the previous year (2019/2020), the number of international students in the UK has experienced significant growth. Specifically, an increase of 8.7%.
My curiosity had by now been piqued. If the UK has over 600,000 foreign students at its universities, how many might there be at a much bigger country like the USA?
Pro rata, the answer is fewer (given the much greater size of the USA than the UK in both geographical terms and by population). However, the number is still very substantial indeed. As long ago as November 2019 (i.e. shortly before the impact of covid was felt on humankind’s international activities) we were toldix that the “Number of International Students in the United States Hits All-Time High”. More specifically:
The number of international students in the United States set an all-time high in the 2018/19 academic year, the fourth consecutive year with more than one million international students. The total number of international students, 1,095,299, is a 0.05 percent increase over last year, according to the 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. International students make up 5.5 percent of the total U.S. higher education population…
…For the tenth consecutive year, China remained the largest source of international students in the United States in 2018/19 with 369,548 students in undergraduate, graduate, non-degree, and optional practical training (OPT) programs, a 1.7 percent increase from 2017/18. India (202,014, +2.9 percent), South Korea (52,250, -4.2 percent), Saudi Arabia (37,080, -16.5 percent), and Canada (26,122, +0.8 percent) round out the top five. Emerging market countries showed some of the strongest growth year over year, especially Bangladesh (+10.0 percent), Brazil (+9.8 percent), Nigeria (+5.8 percent), and Pakistan (+5.6 percent).
There are many ways to slice global numbers of international students. One websitex tells us that:
In 2017, there were over 5.3 million international students, up from 2 million in 2000 (UNESCO, 2019). More than half of these were enrolled in educational programmes in six countries: The United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany and the Russian Federation. Prominent sending countries of international students include China, India, Germany, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, France, Saudi Arabia and several Central Asian countries (ibid.).
That would seem to involve an awful lot of air travel. The statistics can be diced differently, of course. Behind those bald numbers, with concentration on the total, and the starting points and destinations of most students, we can also see that some countries have higher percentages of international students than others. The Statista websitexi tells us that (as of 2020, – pre-covid – anyway) in these stakes, Australia was way out in front, with 31.3% of its higher education students being international students. Canada scored second on this metric, with 23.7%, followed by the UK with 22.3%. New Zealand came fourth (13.5%) and the next five places fell to EU nation states – France (13.4%); Netherlands (13.2%); Denmark (11.8%); Germany (11.7%); and Sweden (10.7%). Russia was in tenth place (I anticipate that this might now change). Interestingly, the USA was in 15th place, with a figure of 5.5% (it obviously has huge total numbers of higher education students).
Percentages can mislead. In terms of absolute numbers, we find a different storyxii. Here, the USA is way out in first place, followed by UK, China, Australia, France and Canada.
For more detailed information, the UNESCO websitexiii has a very interesting data source.
Travel broadens the mind, and international study can be hugely beneficial both to the student and the university host. I say nothing to disparage the practice. However, it does seem a little odd that UK universities should be at the forefront both of climate change alarmism and of international student travel. In absolute numbers of international students, the UK is second on the list. It is third on the list of countries with the highest proportion of international students. A significant proportion of those international students have to make long-haul flights to attend at their host universities, with 228,000 travelling from China and India alone. Perhaps 10% of international students across the globe attend UK universities. The impact of covid may have put a temporary spoke in the wheel of international students travelling the globe, but in the UK, as pretty much everywhere else, the trend seems to be remorselessly upwards.
Should University academics really be shouting loudly about climate change while encouraging hundreds of thousands of young people to fly thousands of miles every year backwards and forwards to university? Should profits trump ethics? Physician, heal thyself.
The number of interest in the US would probably be the number of out of state students. After all a Belgian studying in the Netherlands probably takes a train. A New Yorker at UCLA almost certainly doesn’t.
LikeLiked by 1 person
A very good point, Chester. Extrapolating from the figures, there must be about 20 million students at US universities. 19 million or so hail from the US. If one-third of them fly to university, that is the same number as all the international students everywhere.
O-o-h-h-h the pervasiveness,
of private jets to climate fests.
Those 400 jets belonging to Jeff Bezoz,
Bill Gates, Prince Albert of Monoco (and Co.)
Blasting a couple of tons of Cee-Oh- two
into the atmosphere in every hour of flight!
LikeLiked by 1 person
It is at moments like this that the sceptic’s outlook appears rational and self-consistent, while the alarmist has to writhe like a tortured snake – or, as in this case, merely display a facade of virtue that is only as deep as their green make-up.
I am in favour of international travel by students and rank it as a Very Good Thing for building a future harmonious world. I don’t care at all about the CO2 accounting of getting them to and fro.
The universities have to be in favour of international students – to be otherwise would be absurd – but on the other hand they insist on an emergency which, naturally, precludes or severely curtails international flights. Rather than contort that into some logical stance (the tortured snake), they just put on the green warpaint and carry on as usual – like a – and this is a terrible simile but it just popped into my head – like a green swan gliding over the millpond and insisting it never, ever kicks its feet.
LikeLiked by 1 person
“O-o-h-h-h the pervasiveness,
of private jets to climate fests.”
There are persistent worries that ex-NATO MANPAD anti-aircraft systems that have been sent to Ukraine may become available on the black market. These may tempt the more aggressive eco-nuts to tackle the private jet problem. Though, evidence from those doing the fighting, on both sides, suggests that not many of these systems work as expected.
“Don’t be thinking your ambition is corrupt.”
What Jordan Peterson would say to every freshman undergraduate. The much-trumpeted (but imaginary) environmental catastrophe – and all its woke trappings – has had a devastating effect on the most vulnerable, in other words, the most conscientious students. Peterson starts to weep here, at the end of his interview with Peter Robinson. Less than four minutes in total, including the Bach at the end.
(I say woke trappings but it’s possible to start with the postmodernist end of the elephant, which Peterson partly does in earlier stages of the video. But it’s striking how large environmental catastrophe looms in his picture.)
LikeLiked by 1 person
I am rather sceptical about the benefits from most non English speaking foreign students. My experience is that the majority (but not all) do not intermingle well and, unless almost forced to contribute, do not engage in class discussions. [If, on the other hand, you do get someone willing to participate, they can be a boon of the first order]. Most walk around together as a clique. I do not blame them, it must be daunting to spend part of your education in a foreign clime. Americans and some German students are usually outgoing and contribute hugely (sometimes too much!)
Also a benefit are returning British students, but I never could decide if it was because of their overseas experience or just because they were one year older and so more mature (probably both).
LikeLiked by 1 person
Before “The Green Degrees” comes the propagandise them young movement.
The Uni of Reading’s:
“Teaching Climate and Sustainability in Primary Schools”
Richard, thank you for that segment from Peter Robinson’s interview with Jordan Peterson. JP seems to be fully back on searing form after his illness and other family woes. I’ve forwarded it to my daughter to encourage her to get her two children to resist the CM propaganda, not that she needs much encouragement, fortunately.
LikeLiked by 1 person
David: Thanks for letting me know and for the encouragement of hearing about another pocket of resistance.
Both Robinson and Peterson have recently interviewed Matt Ridley and Bjorn Lomborg. Given how popular their podcasts are, including for young people in Peterson’s case, that also has to be good news. (Though nothing in terms of numbers of viewers compared to Joe Rogan’s interview of Steve Koonin, as mentioned on the Bit Rot thread.)
I do love the way Robinson allows time for his interviewees to explain their arguments without giving his own view. Jason Riley paid tribute to him on this in relation to Thomas Sowell. In that case his authentic self-deprecation was also highly amusing:
Pockets both of resistance and good manners. All is not lost.
LikeLiked by 3 people
Richard, Thank you for the second clip.
As I remarked to my daughter, Peter Robinson is an exceptional interviewer. This is partly for the reason explained by Jason Riley: encouraging (rather than ‘allowing’) his guests to respond fully and thoughtfully. PR also formulates deeply thought-through questions which again encourage his guests to respond in kind. It also strikes me that by not trying to control the direction of the interview, he is agile of mind and prepared to follow where the thought processes lead. The time constraints of an interview mean that he must have to abandon many of the questions he has so assiduously prepared!
As to Thomas Sowell, he sits in the pantheon of the greats – a remarkable intellect, quietly-spoken, humble.
As you say, there are pockets of resistance and good manners – one of the reasons I visit this site (though I rarely comment).
LikeLiked by 2 people
That’s a very good point about Robinson’s agility of mind David. His interview of Stephen Kotkin, biographer of Stalin, in March, about the Ukraine situation and what Russian history had to teach us, exhibited that again. I pointed Dominic Cummings to this segment on his Substack blog after he asked if Kotkin had made clear whether he disagreed with the proposed expansion of Nato to include Georgia and Ukraine put forward by Bush in 2008. (Kotkin said it was probably wrong. DC and I thought it definitely was! But it was Robinson’s probing, then sitting back, that made the point clear.)
My last YouTube excerpt for a while! But all relevant I feel sure to the education of English-speakers of undergraduate age worldwide – including those who opt not to go through conventional academia.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I must admit that my recent Cliscep activities have tended to be focused upon making my own contributions rather than reading those made by others. Consequently, I have been a bit slow to read the above. I had assumed that it would be another rather depressing report of the indoctrination that now features so prominently in our education system. Instead, I see that you are highlighting the somewhat awkward ambivalence that besets a system that demands that its students understand the problems associated with a high carbon footprint, whilst doing everything it can to contribute towards the problem. As Jit suggests, I’m sure that they will have no problem justifying this to themselves.
Next, I need to summon up the will to read Tony’s latest offering. But I don’t know if I still have the fortitude of spirit to do so.
LikeLiked by 2 people
“Why all the panic over international students?
The much-feared ‘Brexodus’ of Britain’s universities has failed to materialise.”
“In Britain this year, wannabe students keen to secure a university place have found themselves in competition with a record number of international applicants. British universities are reported to be taking up to 40 per cent more overseas students than five years ago, with some universities offering close to half of all places to foreign students. Elite Russell Group universities have awarded roughly a fifth of places to international students, while 54 per cent of those studying at the London School of Economics come from outside of the UK.”
A follow-up point from the same article:
“With the campus Brexodous having failed to materialise, there’s now a new concern. It’s not that there will be too few international students, but too many. Numbers could rise by over 50 per cent over the next five years, frets The Times. The panic now is that in the unregulated wild west that is the post-Brexit higher-education sector, ruthlessly marketised universities will look to milk foreign students for their higher fees at the expense of their struggling British peers.
It is certainly the case that the £24,000 in fees international students bring with them each year make them far more attractive to universities than the Brits who pay £9,250. And this has clearly incentivised overseas recruitment.”
Money, it seems, will always trump principles.
“Scottish universities near ‘critical’ state as alarm grows over international fees”
Unfortunately the rest is behind a paywall.
But this one from a couple of years ago isn’t paywalled:
“Scotland’s ancient universities and their reliance on foreign students”
Foreign students are a very mixed bag. In my experience they include both the very best and the worst. The best can be simply awesome. They operate in a foreign language yet their writing and exam scripts are amongst the very best. They inspire. Even those who struggle with English have my admiration and set examples that their new English friends try to follow. Foreign students can be great assets, providing novel viewpoints. On the other hand amongst the very worst are some of the state-sponsored. Some go around in groups, not mixing with others and produce rubbish “work”, arguing vehemently for better marks. In their cases the universities more than earn the enhanced fees charged to such students. For the very best, the universities should pay the students.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I agree with what you say about foreign students and their ability to cope in a language that is not their own. During my brief postgraduate days, I once asked a fellow student how they coped so well, and what he told me surprised me. He claimed that the English used in a physics lecture posed no problems because a familiar vocabulary is being used, i.e the English is just part of the physics. Where he struggled, however, was in social settings, such as when ordering pints in a pub. His physics training did little to prepare him for that.
You what John?
I can’t hear you this pub is too noisy
LikeLiked by 1 person
“Fossil fuel recruiters banned from UK university careers service
Exclusive: Birkbeck, University of London, is first institution to blacklist firms ‘most responsible for destroying the planet’”
“LIFE AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT”
From the “you couldn’t make it up” section of the BBC website:
“COP27: Seychelles student fears country could disappear”
Well, she’s certainly doing her bit for CO2 emissions!
What a strange place the Seychelles is: a country never more than a few feet above sea level with a wonderful climate, a place difficult to get to and, for visitors expensive to live in, so never overcrowded. Being so low above sealevel it was a target for sealevel rise advocates who worried about it and iywho were somewhat dismayed by a 100 year old sea-level sensitive mangrove tree still at sea-level (so much so that activists pulled it up). The most amazing thing about such a low-lying country is that it doesn’t suffer from hurricanes or the like.
Almost certainly I will not see it again: something I really regret.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m going stupid. I was speaking of the Maldives not the Seychelles. Same ocean, different island group. Same arguments?
I did wonder Alan. When you’re compiling that bucket list, precision can matter!
“Barcelona students to take mandatory climate crisis module from 2024
Course thought to be world first agreed after university bowed to pressure from seven-day End Fossil protest”
“We are experts in helping international students move to Barcelona”.
Quotes included from happy students (from 70+ nationalities) from the Phillipines, Cuba and India. I wonder how they all get there?
“Fossil fuel recruiters banned from three more UK universities
Exclusive: one university cites the industry as a ‘fundamental barrier to a more just and sustainable world’”
Hmm. From the University of Arts London website:
Wrexham Glyndwr University:
University of Bedfordshire:
[I’d be surprised if you can’t find your country. It’s one heck of a long list].
Physician, heal thyself.
Prof David Mba, the deputy vice-chancellor at University of the Arts London, said: “In line with UAL’s commitment to climate justice and its social purpose, it does not work with companies in the fossil fuel, mining, arms or tobacco industries.”
How does Prof. Mba envisage a transition to net zero without the considerable input of the global mining industry, the use of diesel to power heavy mining equipment, process and refine raw materials and manufacture components for ‘renewable’ energy. Has he asked himself why China has a monopoly on the processing of critical materials such as polysilicon for photovoltaics, lithium for batteries etc.? It’s because of their use of low cost coal.
The blinkered world view and lack of joined up thinking amongst the so-called intelligentsia is frightening.
Birkbeck, University of Bedfordshire, Wrexham Glyndwr University are unlikely providers of talent for the fossil fuel industries so what’s the fuss about other than those institutions are denying their students access to possible employment?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Alan, that’s a good point.
My reason for bringing this piece of ridiculous virtue-signal to attention here, is because of the hypocrisy and nonsense of banning the very fossil fuel companies whose products enable the universities in question to make lots of money from international students, many of whom travel backwards and forwards to university in fossil fuel-powered aircraft.
It seems that taking “responsibility to social and climate justice seriously” only goes so far.
“Most UK universities failing to hit carbon reduction targets
Campaign group calls for institutions to be accountable via short-term assessments after 59% missed goals”
Accounting for emissions is a notoriously difficult issue. As we know, countries which export huge volumes of fossil fuels don’t have the emissions from those fossil fuels counted against them – the emissions are logged against the countries that use them. Countries such as the UK boast massive reductions in emissions, when the reality is that we have simply exported many of those emissions to China, where much of what we use is now manufactured (in a much more CO2 intensive way than if it had been manufactured here) before being transported half-way round the world. By the same token, I strongly suspect that the emissions associated with hundreds of thousands of international students travelling backwards and forwards between their home countries and the UK universities they attend, aren’t counted against the universities who work so hard to attract them (and the lucrative fees they pay).