The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) and the SRA have worked together to develop the new University Catering Rating, which will not only help raise dining standards across UK universities, but also makes good business sense.
According to research conducted by the Higher Education Authority and the NUS, over 80% of students consistently believe that Sustainable Development should be actively incorporated and promoted by Universities.
Julie Barker, TUCO Chair, said: "Working in partnership with the SRA, TUCO has developed a ratings model that is sector specific to our market - a model which recognises the bespoke challenges faced by those operating in the Higher Education sector while retaining its unique integrity through the way it is scored.”
The universities at Brighton and Plymouth played a crucial role in modelling and testing the new rating. Both received an exceptional score, Three Stars – the highest rating.
The University of Brighton’s Three Star rating reflected a number of notable initiatives, including its Marine Stewardship Council chain of custody certification, which ensures all the seafood it serves is from sustainable sources, it’s commitment to selling Fairtrade products at catering sites across campus the cookery classes and its use of renewable energy.
Julie Barker, in her capacity as Director of Accommodation and Hospitality at the University of Brighton, said: "I am, of course, delighted by the exceptional score achieved by University of Brighton, which is the first University to have been awarded this accreditation.
“The Report was welcomed by the Brighton team - which now feels it has a benchmark to strive to beat. Whilst we were very happy with the outcome, we also recognise that we can make improvement – the process has challenged us to find the areas we can do better in.
"I would urge that other universities and TUCO members also give real consideration to take advantage of this accreditation that is highly relevant and beneficial.”
The SRA was said to be particularly struck by Plymouth University’s commitment to source from local producers exemplified by the 5,000 portions of locally caught fish served annually and the switch to Freedom Food charcuterie from Bristol. Efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, evident in the compostable disposables and the work it’s doing with local schools were also praised. By transforming the carbohydrate heavy, standard canteen menu at one of its cafes, to one based on a range of healthy options made from locally sourced ingredients, Plymouth has increased turnover by 230%.
Ian Gribben, Commercial Services Director at Plymouth University, said: “It’s easy for us to sometimes forget we are doing something because it is right, tastes better or has value. We think this will help our awareness campaigns and prompt us to be more pro-active in our marketing. We feel the balance between the moral, ethical, and financial values works very well in helping target and support local businesses, British producers and local foods.”