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Jisc identifies eight needs for digital sustainability in tertiary education


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Eight digital sustainability needs have been identified for the higher and further education sectors in a new report on the issues by Jisc.

The membership organisation for edtech in tertiary education has published Digital sustainability in tertiary education: trends, challenges and sector insights, taking in a survey of almost 100 members.

It says the needs have been identified from feedback from its members and are common across the sector.

They cover: knowing where to start; measuring for digital emissions; a platform for online collaboration; advices on overcoming financial barriers; increased leadership awareness, dashboard utilisation and data analytics; advice with measuring and indirect digital emissions; and upskilling staff and students.

The latter reflects one of the key findings of the report, the use of IT by staff and students is regarded as the largest single challenge, identified by 21% of survey respondents.

Stages on journey

It also reveals that HE institutions are slightly further along in their digital sustainability journey, with 45% of respondents already having net zero targets in place for 2035 or earlier. In contrast, the majority of FE respondents (56%) stated they have sustainability objectives in place but have not yet set net zero targets. 

Both HE and FE respondents identified sustainable policies for key stages of the IT product lifecycle as the top actions being taken to ensure digital environmental sustainability. 

Cal Innes, sustainability subject specialists at Jisc, said: “It would be easy to assume that the use of digital in education is a win for sustainability. Online and blended learning reduces the need for travel for many students and staff, while the use of virtual learning environments often negates the need for physical classroom space, leading to savings on heating, lighting and maintenance. 

“However, there are often hidden sustainability costs from institutions' everyday use of digital that could result in hefty digital carbon footprints. Increased carbon emissions resulting from saving unnecessary content to the cloud, leaving devices on standby, and sharing substantial amounts of data are common examples of areas that could be easily improved by using a sustainable approach. “


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