Climate risk assessment and resilience strategies are critical for the future of universities

Higher Education Institutions should develop strategies to evaluate and adapt to potential climate risks such as flooding, droughts, and heatwaves, according to a new report.

The growing threat of climate change-related hazards led a team from 13 UK universities to issue guidance for improving resilience against potential climate threats.

The paper aims to support Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) with developing processes to assess their current and future climate risks, as well as how to adapt to these risks, and how to identify opportunities to strengthen their resilience.

The guidance summarises latest evidence related to national climate risk assessment and adaptation planning, and offers practical suggestions for senior leaders, professional staff, students, and other stakeholders.

It outlines activities and frameworks for mitigating risk. And gives examples of how to quickly evaluate risks of varying severities and likelihoods of climate-related damage.

The report also highlights the importance of a climate-resilient approach to net zero. This is to ensure that steps taken to reduce carbon footprints are also compatible with expected changes in weather extremes.

Image: Example of a scoring matrix used for rapid appraisal of climate risk likelihood and consequence expressed here in terms of cost (£) of damages/interruptions.

Lead author Professor Rob Wilby, of Loughborough University, said: “A key message from this work is the need for HEIs to move to ‘resilient net zero’.

“This means adapting to climate risks that are already impacting facilities and activities, whilst also driving down greenhouse gas emissions.

“This requires a clear vision of what we are trying to achieve and should engage all communities on and around our estates.”

The authors also call on the Government to give more attention to risks to education in the fourth national Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA4) and subsequent National Adaptation Plan, plus accelerate the release of data held by Government agencies and funded bodies to enable local climate risk assessment and adaptation planning.

The paper and supporting case studies have been produced in association with the UK Universities Climate Network – a group of more than 85 UK-based universities and research centres working together to help drive climate action.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/42

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings – the sixth year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’.

In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.