Extinction Rebellion universities group calls for degree overhaul to mark start of Global Climate Strikes - Extinction Rebellion UK

Extinction Rebellion universities group calls for degree overhaul to mark start of Global Climate Strikes

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  • Event to take place at St Clements Church on the Strand featuring university academics alongside Extinction Rebellion activists
  • Action marks the start of the Global Climate Strikes where XR Universities will join students around the world taking part today
  • 24 university groups sign up to newly formed group calling for UK universities to take immediate action to solve the climate and ecological crisis
  • Extinction Rebellion to raise awareness over coming week about International Rebellion starting 7th October 2019

An Extinction Rebellion (XR) group has today (20 September) called on UK universities to take immediate action in response to the climate and ecological crisis. XR Universities is demanding eco-pedagogy centred reform, which would include a complete overhaul of university degrees to reflect the severity of the situation we face.

The announcement comes ahead of a day of climate education outside St Clements Church on the Strand today, featuring talks from academics and activists, workshops, art and music. Organisers will be calling for wholesale reform of higher education, including prioritising and decolonising climate education across all university degrees. The programme will also address how climate change, sustainability and global justice intersect all academic disciplines. 

The event marks the start of the Global Climate Strikes and is part of a series of actions planned by Extinction Rebellion on university campuses in September and October.

XR Universities hopes the day will consolidate working bonds between universities, as well as other groups involved in environmental struggles in a true ‘movement of movements’.

Nian Li, 22, Extinction Rebellion activist and a medical students at Barts and The London, said:

“Universities are failing to adequately respond to the climate and ecological crisis. Today we are launching a declaration which sets out a number of demands that our students want to see.

“I’m a medical student about to enter my fifth year of study and not once has the impact of climate change on healthcare system been mentioned on my course.  Climate change will be one of the greatest public health challenges we have ever faced and yet many of my peers and I feel wholly unprepared.

“Universities are doing students a disservice by failing to reflect that reality in the course design and delivery.”

Jane Penty, Sustainable Design Leader at Central St Martins, said:

“As a university lecturer I feel that everything we teach needs to be reframed in relation to the emergency we are facing. Our climate crisis is the greatest test of humankind’s creative and collaborative skills and we all need to be tooled up for this.”

The students will be joined by academics and other staff from Imperial College London, University College London, University of the Arts London, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Other contributors include activists from the Extinction Rebellion Internationalist Solidarity Network and Flourishing Diversity Series, Women’s Environmental Network, XR Fashion Action, Doctors for XR and XR Educators, as well as music and poetry performances from local artists.

Connor Newson, 24, Extinction Rebellion activist, said:

“The need for educational reform is critical. Through today’s event we are taking matters into our own hands. We are no longer satisfied by asking for change, today we are creating and demonstrating the reform we want to see and acting as an example for educational institutions to take notice and follow suit. We stand in solidarity with the youth strikers. We are rewriting our reality to take back control over our future.”

Through the event, XR Universities will call for an accessible and engaged educational system, as it is only through the open and honest dissemination of knowledge which universities hold that humanity will be able to address the climate and ecological crisis.

The news follows the success by students and parents at Goldsmiths University who persuaded the institution to commit to going carbon neutral by 2025. We hope that a collective movement of students, staff and academics will enable us to work together to turn the heat up for more universities to follow suit.

Notes to editor

Extinction Rebellion Universities’ Declaration of Rebellion

We, XR Universities, declare ourselves in rebellion.

We rebel against our universities’ and governments’ failure to adequately act and teach the truths about the ecological and climate crisis.

We rebel against the entrenched educational systems, institutional ideologies and power structures that underpin the climate emergency.

We rebel against the privileged access to knowledge and its production. 

We rebel with non-violence and education.

We demand our institutions reform and act in accordance to the climate knowledge they produce; making this accessible to all through bridging the gap between academia and the public, and the sharing of knowledge.

We will disrupt until concrete action on divestment, decolonisation and diversification within our universities is taken.

We call on all disciplines, departments and fields to engage honestly, openly and creatively with the climate crisis, whilst applauding those faculties already endeavoring to do this.

We celebrate all forms of learning; opening our hearts and minds to the diverse perspectives and experiences within human understanding; amplifying the voices of those long teaching the inherent value and knowledge within the Earth’s life-systems; and exploring the role of the arts alongside the sciences in tackling climate change, the spiritual alongside the material.

We seek the guidance and wisdom of movements of students, educators and activists across the globe, recognising those that came before us and those ongoing; drawing upon a diverse wealth of knowledge and experience, and galvanised by a rich history of student-led collective change.

We endeavour to foster international solidarity and collaboration; a Movement of Movements, centred upon a common purpose of climate education, conversation and justice; ensuring the truths are spoken about the ecological emergency and injustice that already exists for our fellow beings across the planet, human and non-human alike.

We place utmost value on student and staff well-being, above and beyond student and staff results, within a regenerative culture; recognising that only from a peaceful inner climate can a truly non-violent world be formed.

We pledge to remain humbly aware of our privileged access to knowledge; subverting the same ideologies and structures that underpin this and the climate catastrophe, as we strive to create an open, accessible and universal education for all.

Our rebellion is simple and direct: Disruption through tangible educational alternatives.

We are not calling for what we want, we are creating it. 

We invite all interested groups of students, youth, academics, trade unions, communities and other campaigners, particularly those already engaged in activism on such issues all over the World, to link up with us for the Global Justice harmonisation of efforts, in building a Movement of Movements for Educational Transformation.

XR Universities, UK


List of Established University Groups:


University of Bristol

University of the West of England (Bristol)

Queen Mary/Barts and the London


Central St Martins (UAL)

City, University of London




Guildhall (XR London Conservatoires)

Imperial College


All Manchester Universities (group within XR Youth Manchester)

Newcastle and Northumbria Universities

All Oxford Universities

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (XR London Conservatoires)

Rose Bruford College




St Andrews



About Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion is a global movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of societal collapse – both of which are seen as inevitable if rapid action is not taken to rein in human-induced climate change and biodiversity loss.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inaction by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s Demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

More Resources

The Emergency 

Extinction Rebellion in Numbers

This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

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