UP Sustainable Development Report takes a broad view of sustainability

Posted on October 27, 2022

Despite higher student numbers, increased graduation rates and research outputs, the University of Pretoria is using less water and electricity and emitting less carbon than it was five years ago.

This is evident from UP’s latest Sustainable Development Report, which covers the period from 1 January 2020 until 31 December 2021.

A crucial theme of the report – the second one that UP has published to date – is that sustainable development extends beyond how the University uses its resources and how it has consciously chosen to take a much broader view.

“Universities exist because of society, and function for the good of society,” says Professor Tawana Kupe, UP Vice-Chancellor, in the foreword to the Sustainable Development Report. “This is inherently a sustainable development conversation, with our sustainability as an institution and our contribution to the sustainability of societies being inextricably linked.”

The University’s intentional focus on sustainable development in the past 10 years has been deepening and maturing.  

“In 2019, we began a shift to seeing sustainable development as something that is integral to what we do,” says Prof Kupe. “Embedding sustainable development into our institutional strategy has been a profound and intentional step. It gives a clear indication of who we are as a university, our efforts to move closer to society and ensure our ongoing relevance, and our position as an African university with a global outlook.”

Using less but doing more

Despite higher student numbers, increased graduation rates and research outputs, the University of Pretoria is using less water and electricity and emitting less carbon than it was five years ago.

While reduced campus activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in 2020, was unquestionably a factor in these improvements, they can also be attributed to the University’s commitment to sustainable development.

Although UP’s consumption of resources is only one of the multiple aspects of sustainable development covered in the report, it shows the effect its sustainable development strategy is having on the ground.

Amid the ongoing load-shedding crisis in South Africa, the use of electricity generated by the University’s solar power facilities has increased 10-fold in the past five years, from only 100 000 kWh in 2017 to almost 1 400 000 million kWh in 2021.

At the same time, electricity drawn from Eskom has dropped 19% over the five-year period.

Similarly, municipal water purchases have almost halved since 2017. This is partly as a result of reduced campus activity during the pandemic but also because of high-efficiency plumbing and irrigation, scheduled maintenance, leak detection and water recovery, among others.

UP’s overall carbon footprint has shrunk by 14% since 2017. The per capita carbon footprint from decreased from 1.73 tonnes in 2017 to 1.48 tonnes in 2021, when the University had 53 000 students, 6 000 staff members, 737 buildings and over 1 165 hectares of land.

Progress is also reported in bringing birdlife and biodiversity back to some campuses and using organic approaches to manage the University’s famous sports fields.

The Sustainable Development Report notes the effect that the full return to normal operations in 2022 is likely to have, especially on waste generated. “It is anticipated that waste generation will increase. Continued efforts to create awareness and a culture of waste management remain important along with holistic approaches towards strengthening a circular economy.”

Moving closer to society

A striking statistic from the report showing the growing impact that UP students are having on society is that 77% of the University’s students participated in curricular community engagement in 2021.

Significantly more students were participating than in 2019, when 29 000 undergraduate students were involved in curricular community engagement across 272 modules. The figures have since risen to 41 100 students across 355 modules spanning all nine faculties.

The Faculty of Health Sciences has the highest number of students participating (17 175), followed by the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (6 082) and the Faculty of Education (5 086).

Meanwhile, the University has stepped up its efforts to recruit learners with disabilities, with a special focus on black grade 12 learners with special educational needs. UP’s Disability Unit is well equipped to support these learners as its services cover visual, hearing, neurodevelopment, psychiatric and physical disabilities, as well as chronic illness and temporary disability.

In 2021, first-year students with visual impairment completed mobility training, including basic cane skills and route training to bus stops and commonly used facilities and buildings.

The Sustainable Development Report 2020/21 also covers curriculum transformation, stakeholder engagement, community engagement, talent management, employee wellbeing, graduate and campus resilience, as well as overviews of the sustainable development activities of each of the nine faculties of the University.

Read more: University of Pretoria excels in QS Sustainability Rankings

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2023. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

To contact the University during the COVID-19 lockdown, please send an email to [email protected]

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences