Katerina Kosta

Thesis title: UK university sustainability reports: an exploratory analysis of an emerging practice

Start year: 2016

Contact: katerina.kosta-2016@brookes.ac.uk

Supervisor(s): Dr Tom Crook, Dr Alon Lischinsky, Dr Samantha Miles

Research topic

Sustainability Reporting in Higher Education (SHE) is a growing agenda for many higher education institutions (HEIs). At the Paris COP21 agreement 195 signatory countries agreed on implementing sustainability reporting processes for the monitoring of progress while achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will necessitate coordinated global monitoring (Lu et al. 2015). Consequently, the profile of sustainability assessment and reporting is rising.

In 2013, following government request, all UK universities make sustainability disclosures publicly available on their websites. These cover eco-efficiency as well as curriculum and research provision (Lidstone et al. 2015; Vaughter et al. 2016). Reporting on an institution’s sustainability activity is seen as enhancing and systematising universities’ sustainability performance (Beveridge et al. 2015; Ceulemans et al. 2015a).

University sustainability reporting has recently become of interest to various stakeholders: first of all students, the vast majority of whom (80%) believe that ‘sustainable development is something which universities should actively incorporate and promote’ according to the NUS and HEA survey on student attitudes to sustainability (Drayson and Taylor 2015: 632). Moreover, the People and Planet, a student run NGO which is considered a major driver for sustainability in the UK HE sector (Wyness and Sterling 2015) scrutinises universities’ sustainability disclosures to collect evidence for the construction of the University League, which ranks universities on their sustainability performance.

Apart from students, sometimes it is the government that requires universities to report on their sustainability performance as is the case in Wales, where education for sustainable development is written in the constitution (Glover at el. 2011). In England, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education has complemented its audit criteria with an education for sustainable development (ESD) component and its quality audits now include the screening of HEIs sustainability credentials (QAA, 2014). It thus appears that various parties, like students, the government and auditing organisations widely scrutinize universities’ reported sustainability performance.

This increasing interest in reported sustainability performance is reflected in the Green Gown Awards, which recognize sustainability excellence in the tertiary education sector. In 2016, a separate, new category was introduced which awards excellent Sustainability Reporting practices among HEIs. While the significance of sustainability reporting in higher education is rising, there seems to be lack of research on the sustainability reporting practices of universities (Lidstone et al. 2015; Ceulemans et al. 2015b). The current study aims to address this gap by exploring how UK universities report on their sustainability performance.


Sustainability in Higher Education (SHE), Higher Education Sustainability Reporting (HESR), Sustainability Assessment

General research interests

Education for Sustainable Development ESD, Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Academic school / department

School of Education, Humanities and Languages


Books and Journal articles

  • Kosta, K. (2018) Sustainability curriculum in UK university sustainability reports. In W.L. Filho (Ed.) Implementing Sustainability in the Curriculum of Universities: teaching approaches, methods, examples and case studies. World Sustainability Series. Switzerland: Springer.
  • Kosta, K. (2017) Sustainability research as presented in UK university sustainability policies. In W.L. Filho (Ed.) Sustainable Development Research at Universities in the UK. World Sustainability Series. Switzerland: Springer.
  • Kosta, K. (2015) Exploring the views of postgraduates on higher education sustainability. In L.Wyness (Ed.) Education for Sustainable Development: Towards the Sustainable University. (pp.34–37). PedRIO: Plymouth University. ISSN: 2052–5818.

Conference papers

  • Kosta, K. (2017) Sustainability curriculum coverage in sustainability reports of UK universities. International Sustainable Development Summit 2017. University of Hamburg. 26-29 September.
  • Kosta, K. (2017) Sustainability curriculum in UK university sustainability reports. Symposium on Implementing Sustainability in the Curriculum of Universities: teaching approaches, methods, examples and case studies. Manchester Metropolitan University. 7 March.
  • Kosta, K. (2016) Sustainability in higher education reported. Sustainability in Higher Education: Challenges and Opportunities. Canterbury Christ Church University. 6–7 July.
  • Kosta, K., Patton, I, Waheed, H. & Sheppard, A. (2016). The future of sustainability reporting. EAUC 20th Annual Conference. University of West of England. 25–26 May.
  • Kosta. K. (2016) Sustainability research as presented in UK universities’ sustainability strategies. Symposium in Sustainable Development Research at Universities in the UK. Manchester Metropolitan University, 5–6 April.
  • Kosta, K. (2015) Exploring the response of postgraduate students to university sustainability. PedRIO Conference: Education for Sustainability in Higher Education;Achievements and Prospects. Plymouth University. 8 January.
  • Kosta, K. (2015) Assessing student engagement in sustainability; a comparison of the Green League and Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). International Symposium: Learning from the sharp end – implications for sustainability in Higher Education. University of Bristol. 8 September.

Further details

Academic and professional training

  • MSc Educational Research (2:1) 2013–2015, Exeter University
  • Interpretive Methodologies
  • Scientific Methodologies (including SPSS)
  • Nature of Educational Enquiry
  • Designing and Communicating Research
  • Dissertation: Sustainability research as defined in UK university sustainability policies

Scholarships and prizes

  • Research internship. Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC). November 2015–May 2016
  • 3-Year Full-time PhD Studentship Oxford Brookes University 2016–2019 (fees and grant)
  • Best Paper Award at the Symposium: Implementing Sustainability in the Curriculum. Manchester Metropolitan University. 7 March 2017.