How are universities responding to the challenges of the climate crisis? A systematic review of literature

Charlotte Nussey, Lorena Sanchez Tyson, Ketan Dandare, Joy Perry, Tristan McCowan

Research output: Working paper


Universities around the world have significantly expanded their range of activities in response to the climate crisis. Yet these actions are not always supported by an adequate evidence base. This report presents a systematic review of peer-reviewed literature on university actions in response to climate change published in English between 1990 and June 2020 in the Web of Science database. A total of 151 articles fulfilled all of the review criteria, and were synthesised according to five categories: education, knowledge production, community engagement, public debate and campus operations. The review makes two principal contributions: first, through thematic mapping of this published literature, it highlights the concentration of work in the Anglophone Global North, and thematically focused on explorations of education, campus operations and diverse forms of community engagement. Our search criteria revealed far less published which reflected on the research and public engagement functions of the university. Second, through synthesis of the substantive findings of empirical studies, it contributes an original typology of change, offering a holistic framework to understand the evidence that we have from these studies of university responses to the climate crisis. This framework highlights the role of universities in developing epistemic, ethical, behavioural, institutional, structural and atmospheric responses to the crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023

Publication series

NameTransforming Universities for a Changing Climate, Working Paper Series
ISSN (Electronic)2754-0308


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