Internationalisation and climate change

Climate change is getting more and more attention in society. In order to solve the challenges involved, more international cooperation is needed. Sustainability and internationalisation are therefore also important themes in education. However, climate change and internationalisation are at odds with each other. Read more about this dilemma in this interview with Nuffic researchers (in Dutch).

Due to the rapid growth in the number of international students, total greenhouse gas emissions as a result of student mobility have increased significantly in recent years. Percentage-wise, greenhouse gas emissions from student mobility have risen even faster than total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is demonstrated for example by research conducted by Robin Shields. For this reason, more and more initiatives are being developed to make international student mobility more sustainable.

The purpose of this page is to inspire professionals working in the internationalisation of education. Do you know any good examples that you would like to see added to this page? Then please contact Jasper Hondelink via

Working Group Sustainability

Within Nuffic, we are actively working on making our organization, our programmes, and our colleague’s behaviour more sustainable. Examples include our travel and lunch policies and the greening of our office building. But also internal workshops for colleagues with tips and ideas for home and work. Do you have good ideas, would you like to work together, or do you have a question or a comment? We would love to hear from you, you can contact Mandy van 't Veer via


Sustainability is one of the priorities in the Erasmus programme from 2021 to 2027. Greater emphasis has been placed on virtual mobility and a Green Travel Top-Up has been introduced to encourage students to travel to their exchange destination in a sustainable manner. The paper-based administration of student mobility is also being digitised in phases within the Erasmus Without Paper Project.


Nuffic studies the topic of sustainable internationalisation. Read about the results of the exploratory study on how higher education institutions can stimulate students to form their international experience in a more sustainable way.

What is happening in education?

Adult Learning

  • The Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE) focused on various sustainability initiatives in adult learning in its online magazine (in Dutch) of December 2020, focusing on the areas of environmental coaches, green skills and reaching out to hard-to-reach groups.
  • The European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) has written a Background Paper on Greening Adult Education in April 2021. Among other things, this paper discusses obstacles and good practices.

Higher education

  • Rotterdam University is working towards a CO2 neutral campus in 2024 by 2024.
  • The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA) has a Travel Grant for students who travel in a sustainable manner to the destination of their international exchange.
  • Viaa University of Applied Sciences only allows students to travel to destinations within Europe for short internships or studies.
  • Radboud University Nijmegen has a Green Office, which focuses on sustainable education, research, patient care and business operations.
  • The University of Groningen has a Green Office that coordinates various activities for the sustainable development of the university.
  • TU Delft developed a practical infographic comparing travel times and CO2 emissions of air and rail transport. The university also has a Green Office that focuses on making research, education and business operations more sustainable.
  • The University of Twente is taking various initiatives in the area of sustainable mobility, including a cycling course for international students and staff.
  • At Utrecht University, students who travel in a sustainable manner to the destination of their Erasmus exchange receive a Travel Grant. The university also has a Green Office that organises various campaigns, challenges and information sessions.
  • Wageningen University & Research has endorsed the Wageningen Climate Plan to take steps towards making the city of Wageningen climate neutral.
  • Check the Erasmus+ e-zine Go Green for inspiration for a sustainable foreign experience: Green Erasmus+ | Duurzaamheid, milieu en klimaat (in Dutch)

Vocational education and training

There are various initiatives for sustainable internationalisation in vocational education and training. Here are some examples:

If you are aware of other interesting initiatives concerning sustainable internationalisation in vocational education and training institutions, please let us know through our contact form.

Secondary education

Secondary education institutions have also devised various initiatives to contribute to making their exchanges more sustainable.

Take a look at these sustainability initiatives, for example:

  • Global Citizen Network: As part of the Global Citizen Network, 2 Dutch schools organised a successful ‘national exchange’.
  • Leren voor morgen: The Leren voor Morgen (Learning for Tomorrow) cooperative stimulates sustainability initiatives in secondary education in the Netherlands (in Dutch).
  • Project Earth Charter: An Erasmus+ project themed ‘Earth Charter’, as part of which 4 schools from 4 different European countries work together to make the transition to a more sustainable and fairer world.

Primary education

If you are aware of interesting initiatives concerning sustainable internationalisation in primary education institutions, please let us know through our contact form.

International initiatives

The number of initiatives to make international mobility and internationalisation in education more sustainable is growing not only in the Netherlands, but also worldwide.

Take a look at these sustainability initiatives:

  • Climate Action Network for International Educators (CANIE): An initiative of professionals in the field of internationalisation in higher education who want to reduce the climate impact of their work. Their target is a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030.
    On 12 November 2020, CANIE organised, in cooperation with Nuffic, the online International Education Climate Action Summit on making internationalisation in higher education more sustainable. The recording of the online event can be seen via CANIE's YouTube channel.
  • EAIE: Since 2017, the EAIE conference has increased its entrance fees annually to finance the planting of trees. The aim of the EAIE Education Forest is to compensate for the environmental burden resulting from the conference.
  • CISaustralia: The Australian organisation CISaustralia is committed to allowing Australian students to gain experience abroad. In order to help reduce the ecological footprint of these students and increase awareness, it has drawn up a Green Book.
  • Movetia: The Swiss agency for internationalisation in education has published a document, Greener Mobility, with best practices for sustainable mobility in education.
  • Coalitie Anders Reizen: The Dutch businesses united in the Anders Reizen (Travel Differently) coalition have announced that they will adjust their flight policies to reduce their CO2 emissions. The ambition is to make the Netherlands healthier and more sustainable by halving CO2 emissions as a result of business mobility. Together with the Foundation for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection and Climate Neutral Group, they have bundled their knowledge and experiences in a ‘flying guide’ (in Dutch) to inspire other organisations to follow their example.
  • ETH Zürich: ETH Zurich has launched an air travel project with the motto ‘Stay grounded, keep connected’. The objective is to encourage its members to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking fewer flights.
  • European Parliament: On 15 September 2020, the European Parliament adopted a resolution setting out effective measures for a ‘green’ Erasmus+, Creative Europe and the European Solidarity Corps.

What can you do?

Do you want to work on sustainable internationalisation within your educational institution?

These 5 tips can help you make the policy of your organisation more sustainable:

  • Keep a record of emissions data for your institution. This will give us an insight into actual emissions. An example of this are The President’s Climate Leadership Commitments, as part of which American universities and colleges have agreed, among other things, to include air travel in their reporting on greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Encourage green travel, particularly by limiting the number of air travel as much as possible.
  • Limit the number of employees per trip and increase the number of activities per trip.
  • Look for alternatives to mobility, such as distance learning and teacher mobility.
  • Compensate any emissions that you still generate.