Sustainability through our curriculum and research


When we design and validate our courses, we aim to ensure that everyone who studies here will be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and attributes to work and live in a world where balancing economic, social, and environmental factors is vital.

Depending on the course studied, this might include doing a project to assess how sustainability features can be incorporated into a building conversion, investigating the long-term effects of farm management in soils, or working with a local wildlife group to find the most effective way to restore the habitat of a rare bird, insect, or plant. Students may visit farms to see how to measure to improve sustainability and animal welfare can be put into practice.

What we eat and how we use land are central to tackling climate change, restoring nature, health, and livelihoods. The RAU’s purpose, to care for the land and all that depend on it, puts us at the heart of these important issues. Our academics include leading experts in agroecology and regenerative agriculture, soil management, animal welfare, farmer-centred innovation, cultural heritage and climate change, and healthy and resilient food systems.

We also walk the talk, with our in-house restaurant focused on sustainable sourcing and partnering with local community kitchen – The Long Table, and our Wild Campus project, enhancing the habitats on our doorstep.

All of our courses include learning that is relevant to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 90% of the scientific papers published by RAU researching since 2014 contribute to one or more of the SDGs with most focused on SDG 2 to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.


Our environment, food, and society are intrinsically linked. The effective conservation of species, ecosystems, and natural resources is vital for sustainable development, and our future.

If you are passionate about protecting the environment, you can gain practical and leadership skills, as well as necessary knowledge and understanding to manage countryside, wildlife, and rural heritage sites. If you have a fascination with how climate and current affairs affect the food on your table, you can gain the skills to shape policy and consult the major organisation in the food sector.

Our graduates have gone on to work for prestigious organisations such as The Wildlife Trust, The National Trust, RSPB, and The Forestry Commission. You will deepen your understanding of the living and physical environment by working on live case studies and hearing first-hand from different organisations within the sector.

We also run our own Wild Campus project. This collaborative initiative focuses on 60 acres of land occupied by the RAU, Cirencester College, and Cirencester Deer Park School. Students can create transformational changes to the area, developing habitats that connect wildlife populations, including rare bat species, birds, butterflies, bees, dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles.

Out in the field

Whether you have an interest in the links between environment, food, and society, or lean more towards wildlife conservation and countryside management, you will gain a wealth of experience before you graduate.

If you want to study a more eagle-eyed view of environmental best practice, you will have the opportunity to visit different organisations within the sector. This will help you to be able to move into a range of roles when you graduate. Previous trips have included food producers such as artisan bakers, and educational establishments such as Ruskin Mill.

For those more concerned with conservation, there are regular opportunities to get hands-on. You can study a course which has a practical one day a week which will give you a broad range of practical skills and training before you graduate. Students have learned how to coppice, lay hedges, build dry stone walls, and restore grassland habitats. Previous field trips have included the Gower Peninsula, the Somerset Levels, the rewilded Knepp Estate, the British Wildlife Centre and many more.

Through RAU research

From sustainable agriculture, food security, and equine science and management, to business, real estate, rural land management and the rural economy, our researchers are regularly called upon by policy-makers and the national media for their expert opinion on a range of topical issues and policies.

Sustainable cropping systems are a key research theme at the RAU, with projects ranging from the impact of non-chemical weed control techniques, weed recognition, factors influencing nitrogen fixation for fertility building, bi-cropping, and developing novel legume cropping systems. A key resource and research theme has been a 10-year fully replicated field trial site investigating how crop establishment technique influences crop growth, development and yield whilst also assessing how these treatments have impacted soil health and physical soil characteristics. These research projects are helping agriculture move towards reducing the environmental impact whilst developing viable alternative production systems which is helping steer a more sustainable pathway for growing crops.

We also have leading expertise in supporting farmer-led research and innovation, coordinating the Farmer-Led Innovation Network, which brings together initiatives, support practical and innovative sustainability projects involving thousands of farmers across the UK.