The reason why universities are beginning to review their academics”travel

The reason why universities are beginning to review their academics”travel

However, flights are responsible for around one-third of the sector’s emissions. Universities will have to reconsider their academic travel because the vast majority of Australia as well New Zealand, and indeed around the globe, are placing sustainability at the forefront of their agendas.

The drive to cut greenhouse emissions is coming from many directions. National climate goals are in place, as well as sectoral initiatives, such as those of the carbon-neutral government program. University campuses have sustainability plans in place, as does “bottom-up” activism like the international Flying Less movement.

Academics are also looking into their personal frequent flyer practices and how they replicate the persistent inequality rooted in colonialism..

COVID-19 has caused a slowdown in travel. For the majority of Australasian academics, an end to all travel. This gives us a chance to contemplate how the academic world will evolve in the coming years. In the case of Australia or New Zealand, the question is especially pressing since they are the only countries where “slow travel” options some propose would be extremely slow indeed.

Read more: Universities have alerted us to the scale of the climate crisis – now they must lead in showing society how to solve it.

Flying less for the climate

The problem of academics’ climate is well-documented. Staff members may be aware of the effects of their flights, but certain are involved in routines that necessitate flying. Some are hesitant to fly as much due to international conferences being considered to be a common route to share results as well as professional development.

But, recent research has found only a few instances of a clear link between travel and professional success and a questionable benefit to publications resulting from attending conferences.

These studies suggest that improvements in diversity, early-career growth, and emissions could be achieved through hosting conferences and meetings on the Internet..

Virtual conferences help with the development of your career and reduce emissions in the process. Shutterstock/artsmedia

An examination of one university’s aviation program

Massey University Te Kunenga ki Purehuroa has three campuses throughout New Zealand, a staff of 3,300, and a student number of 30.495 (in 2020). The greenhouse gases that the university emits originate from vehicles, farms, and energy use. It also has an aviation school.

However, the 2019 air journey of 11.833 tons of equivalent CO2 emissions is 29% of all emissions, which is equal to 67,180kms for every academic or staff participant who flew.

The plan of the university to achieve an emission-free net by 2030 incorporates an obligation to cut down on the number of flights by 30%. Recent research has identified five reasons for air travel prior to COVID, which are the basis of the university’s research and teaching.

  • to increase collaboration and networks
  • To gain access to resources and carry out fieldwork that isn’t available in New Zealand
  • to react to external drivers, for example, the fund for research that is based on performance, solicitations, and funder requirements
  • to increase capacity and improve the capabilities of staff
  • and to help promote the university and to recruit both students and staff.

The 2019 data from Massey’s air travel department indicate that 29% of employees traveled internationally, and 61% of these flights were for conferences. In all ,8%, the majority were short-haul flights to Australia or the southern Pacific, which accounted for 6 percent of the carbon emissions. Long-haul flights comprised 19 percent of all travel, but they were responsible for the majority of the emissions.

In keeping with the very uneven distribution of travel by air globally, 71% of employees didn’t take any overseas travel in 2019. 18% of them took one to two trips, while 6 percent took between three and four visits, and 5% of them took at least five trips.

One of the ongoing discussions is how to measure the value of such travel. It is relatively easy to state on a travel application that the outputs will be a publication or a collaboration. However, assessing the reality of those proposed outputs and their relative value for the individual or institution is difficult.

What do staff members think?

The results of a Massey University staff survey found the majority of respondents believed that international travel is essential for the success of the university. A larger majority thought that it was necessary to for their personal lives. However, a small majority agreed that travel time should be trimmed.

The percentage of travel respondents believed could be eliminated ranged widely but was generally 50 percent. Further research identified administration and information-sharing meetings of existing committees as well as research groups as areas that could be accomplished without traveling in the near future.

The effect of less air travel on early-career researchers, who are working on connections and professional careers, was a popular topic. However, air miles are mostly dominated by a few highly mobile academics who are senior in their field.

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