With the world’s spotlight now falling on Scotland, COP26 provides the perfect opportunity for City of Glasgow College to live up to its visionary motto ‘lead from the future’, writes Principal and Chief Executive Dr Paul Little.

THE 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is almost upon us. It represents the best last hope, according to scientists, to avoid a climate catastrophe.

The immense scale of the COP26 event means that Glasgow will have an unparalleled opportunity to showcase all that’s great about its people and its metropolitan economic region, in the full glare of a global spotlight.

Over 100 world leaders are expected to visit, with both US President Joe Biden and former President Obama among the confirmed delegates.

The stakes for COP26 are indeed high and success is by no means certain. To successfully reverse or even slow rising global temperatures will take unprecedented global political conviction combined with concerted global action.

If the famous Paris Agreement was in essence about the ‘why?’, the future Glasgow Agreement must be clearly more about the ‘how?’ of tackling our climate emergency.

In the meantime we can all play our part and we all should. The Scottish college sector’s extensive networks and unique reach to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, provides a central role in supporting net-zero related innovation activity for businesses using our technological and professional prowess.

Simultaneously, colleges will provide the up- and re-skilling that both drives regional economic development and recovery from the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, while moving Scotland to a carbon neutral economy. City of Glasgow College is also leading the City Region in developing a specialist skills base to support the Council’s home energy retrofit across its housing stock.

One of our visionary super campus mottos is that we ‘lead from the future’. In doing so, we have reduced the college carbon footprint by 33% in the past five years and we have instigated multiple sustainability projects – with more planned – to reach the ambitious target of being net-zero from carbon emissions by 2040.

Our world-class, twin-site campus achieved excellent ratings from BREEAM almost six years ago - the world’s leading assessment method for climate friendly buildings.

Since then we have also transformed our waste management, achieving Platinum level in Zero Waste Scotland’s Resource Efficiency Pledge, and now divert all food waste from anaerobic digestion by composting directly on site.

The college has invested in a 100% electric vehicle fleet, introduced electric bikes for staff to travel between our twin site campus, no longer sells single use plastic bottles in our catering outlets and vending machines, and have decided to permanently add a 50p charge on all single use hot drinks cups, which is calculated to remove 100,000 cups per year from our waste stream.

As an eco-trailblazer our college was an early signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals Accord, embedding these objectives into education, research, leadership, operations, administration and our engagement activities.

The college is currently ensuring green skills are visible across our curriculum and fostering greater ecological awareness for up to 40,000 students and 1600 staff.

We have a global outlook with partnerships across five continents in 29 countries and over 4000 international students from some 130 partner institutions each year. Strong working relationships forged across multiple sectors benefit not only our students, but also our business and industry partners. Many in Scotland will know of our strong Nautical and STEM links with partners in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

 Many more may be surprised to learn that we train 45% of all UK Merchant Navy Officers.

This is why during COP26, our award-winning campus on the River Clyde is transforming into the summit’s International Maritime Hub. In partnership with Maritime UK, we will be hosting a range of events highlighting UK maritime expertise within areas such as technology, policy, regulation, education and training.

The Hub is a global showcase for green technology, innovation and capabilities from across the UK maritime sector and will display the sector’s capabilities to world leaders while advancing the conversation around green growth.

We are delighted that the Hub is hosting illustrious bodies such as the International Maritime Organisation – the UN’s maritime division – and the International Chamber of Shipping, as well as ministerial representatives from both the UK and Scottish governments. The Hub is also holding our ‘Journey to Net Zero’ seminar, which will discuss the future of the maritime industry looking at the lifecycle of a ship and the skills required for the future generation seafarer.

In addition, at our City campus, we are jointly running an educational and skills symposium with University College London on ‘Green Transitions and the role of Further and Higher Education’, which will explore the part of tertiary education in tackling climate change, being technological incubators and how the green, socially just and post-Covid-19 transitions intersect. 

In collaboration with Glasgow Colleges’ Regional Board and all three Glasgow colleges, we are partnering with Climate Fresk, a non-profit global organisation committed to climate education. Our City campus is hosting Climate Fresk’s free, innovative workshops during COP26 aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the impact of climate change.

COP26 provides Glasgow with an amazing opportunity. At City of Glasgow College we are using this world stage to showcase our comprehensive approach to embedding green skills for green jobs in the curriculum, our innovative sustainability initiatives and how we are encouraging students and staff to change their environmental behaviour. This creates an impactful and positive legacy from having the summit on our doorstep.

woApprenschool now offers Construction Foundation Apprenticeships at both levels. We work with Forth Valley College to provide 18 fourth year pupils with a qualification at Level 4 and the school delivers the Level 5 Foundation Apprenticeship in-house to 20 senior phase pupils. 

Whilst the pandemic has affected our original plans, it has led to more creative ways of delivery including virtual work placements with Morrison Construction. 

Pupils undertaking Level 5 Construction built playhouses for local nurseries, treating them as clients to gather briefs and working in partnership with them throughout the whole process from concept to completion.  

The outcomes from Foundation Apprenticeships at SCQF Level 4 and 5 have been amazing. 

The self-esteem and confidence of participating pupils has risen significantly. They can articulate the meta skills they have gained very well, which has enabled them to secure interviews and successfully progress on to a job or further learning. 

Not only that, the standard of the workmanship the pupils have been producing on their apprenticeship is of an extremely high quality. 

Foundation Apprenticeships have helped St. Modan’s bring about the cultural change that we envisaged from the creation of our Vocational Training Centre. 

The work young people on these apprenticeships are creating is displayed on the school grounds, which is helping other pupils to see the opportunities available to them in the curriculum. 

For some learners at SCQF Level 4 and 5 the opportunity to gain this qualification through work-based learning is exactly what they are craving. 

At St Modan’s, our pupils tend to stay on until sixth year and we need a diverse and inclusive curriculum that meets the needs of every young person. 



Designers wear commitment to sustainability well

CITY of Glasgow College is committed to achieving net zero by 2040. Having reduced its carbon emissions in the last five years by 33%, embedding innovation and sustainability in its curriculum design and delivery plays a large part in that ongoing commitment.

In 2018 the college signed the Ethical Making Pledge which ensures the use of ethically sourced precious metals in jewellery making. 

The Herald:

Lisa McGovern, Curriculum Head for Craft and Design at City of Glasgow College, explains that the pledge has three key components: moving towards the sole use of ethically-sourced precious metals, including ethical theory and practice within the curriculum and using ethical making in their own workshops.

“We used to buy silver for the students without really being able to source where it came from,” she says. “Now we get recycled eco silver and Fairtrade gold.

“We’ve managed to include ethical theories in our curriculum by raising awareness with the students, giving them briefs that highlight ethical issues and sustainability. One assignment involves the students designing art medals with a green message and we’ve previously used themes like plastic pollution, to encourage them to channel that theme through visual means.”

The methods used within the college itself have also been adapted to be kinder to the environment, Lisa explains.

The Herald:

“We use more natural chemicals, things like vinegar and salt, rather than acids. With the college’s ongoing commitment to digital learning, we do a lot of 3D printing, but using plant-based resin for our prototyping, as it’s biodegradable and generates less waste.”

And far from just being a box-ticking exercise, Lisa is confident that the ethical pledge is making a real difference to the City of Glasgow College students.

“Our students become more responsible makers when they leave, as we have instilled in them from the early stages of their career the importance of a circular economy. They leave with that being second nature. They are actually producing more innovative work because they are being challenged in different ways.

“It isn’t just pretty jewellery, there is a purpose there.”