Students supporting University Social Responsibility in Europe

Emily Dawson is a 4th year undergraduate student in the MA Sustainable Development degree programme. Emily reflects on her recent participation in the European Students Sustainability Auditing Project. Seven students from the University visited Lithuania to conduct an audit of Kaunas University of Technology’s social responsibility practices.  

Last month I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Kaunas in Lithuania as part of the European Students Sustainability Auditing (ESSA) project. ESSA is a three-year Erasmus+ project giving students the chance to conduct a social responsibility and sustainability audit of a university in a different country. We were to audit Kaunas University of Technology. 

Before going to Lithuania, we had been trained in the benchmark criteria and given information on how to conduct an audit. I was part of a group of seven students from the University of Edinburgh who flew out to Kaunas where we were joined by another seven students from the University of Porto in Portugal. We split up into small groups based on the four benchmark criteria of:

  1.  Research, Teaching, Support for learning and Public engagement
  2. Governance
  3. Environmental and Societal Sustainability
  4. Fair practices

The groups were mixed with students from different universities and countries which was really good and gave us a unique and diverse perspective. This also brought some challenges at times but overall it was great to be part of an international team, and I believe the experience was better for it.

The week was hard work but rewarding. We were given a lot of freedom and also responsibilities. We formulated questions and led interviews and focus groups with students and staff from all levels of the university, before presenting our findings at the end of the week.

It was an intense week and was a lot of hard work, but we also had time at nights to explore the city and socialise with and form new friendships with our fellow students from Lithuania and Portugal.

Overall it was a fantastic week.  Meeting students from different universities with a range of diverse backgrounds and disciplines all interested in sustainability was inspiring. It was an excellent opportunity to meet people and explore a different city and its culture. We were lucky enough to have the chance to explore both Kaunas and also do some sightseeing in the capital Vilnius.

It was an amazing experience to meet people and develop and expand auditing skills. If you get the chance, I would thoroughly recommend it.

More information on the ESSA project