Oxford Climate Society (OCS) have intensified their push for the University to mandatorily put climate on the curriculum, stepping up interactions with the University and different subject faculties, whilst creating a committee dedicated to the issue for the first time.

OCS aims for all Oxford subjects to include the climate, and climate change, on core papers for all of their courses.

Due to the growing climate crisis, OCS has established dialogue with different departments, the upper hierarchy of the University, and students across Oxford in order to achieve this.

In a statement, the Society said: “It’s always easy going to the university and telling them what they need to do but we decided it would take too long unless we stepped in and helped out too. We’re trying to use top-down and bottom-up approaches at the same time so that we can introduce or at least get the various departments to consider introducing a minimum climate-related course or lecture series.”

“We’re hoping that by setting up a team dedicated to working with the SU, students and the departments, we can mobilise all the actors we know of and actually create some changes that we’ve been looking for.”

The ‘Climate in the Curriculum’ initiative was established in 2018, though it failed to gain significant momentum. OCS sent a letter to the University requesting curriculum changes; it was signed by 30 academics and 330 students.

Outlining the initiatives aims, the letter said: “The University of Oxford is a world leader on climate change research and is well positioned to spread this expertise among its students. Yet current students may study politics, economics, law or natural sciences with limited engagement with climate change, the defining issue of our time.” 

“It is the University’s responsibility to futureproof its curricula and we expect the University to enable us to deal with changing environments and societies.”

‘Climate in the Curriculum’ is only one part of OCS’ attempt to broaden its reach and make clear the threat of climate change across the University.

The Oxford School of Climate Change (SoCC) has also been majorly expanded. SoCC has been organised to educate students across different subjects in a comprehensive education on the major issues posed by climate change.

The School, which has taken only 35 participants in the past, has now accepted 140 from 240 applications, the largest it has ever taken. The participants have been divided into two groups, each being given a weekly seminar.

Alongside ‘Climate in the Curriculum,’ OCS has been negotiating with the University to increase the capacity of SoCC to take more students.

They said: “We’ve been talking with interested stakeholders high up in the university who are interested in funding a significant upscaling of the school considering the crucial value that it plays in keeping Oxford’s education at a world leading and progressive level, preparing its students to play crucial leadership roles in the changing world.”

In the long term, OCS hope operating these initiatives will help achieve the goals of their Climate Action Plan, to decarbonise the University and Oxford’s colleges. OCS hopes to push them to reach net zero by 2030 and absolute zero by 2050.

The Plan, released in Michaelmas 2019, involves working with the University, as well as specific departments and college bursars, to educate them in the key issues of climate change, in the hope they will implement the change OCS says is needed. As part of this, OCS will be holding 5-10 facilitative workshops over the next year.

On the Plan, OCS said: “We’re using the rest of the academic year to run workshops for college bursars and department heads to provide them with the resources they need to create and implement a successful Climate Action Plan.”

“Working with the Sustainability Guild and college bursars, we’re hoping to directly tackle the admin side of changes and we hope that colleges and departments use this as an opportunity to learn from experts in the field through the workshops, and from each other.”

OCS was founded in 2014 to address the issue of climate change in Oxford. Over 70 people currently work for the Society to pursue a wide range of strategies, under a number of subcommittees.