Future Leaders Survey Asks 25,000 UK Students About Action and Change

04 March 2008 | News story

Three quarters of UK students believe serious change is needed if human civilisation is to survive into the next century.

2007-08 Future Leaders Survey

Forum for the Future and UCAS have surveyed over 25,000 university applicants for the 2007-08 Future Leaders Survey sponsored by Friends Provident. They told us how they expect the world to change, what they really want to happen in the future and where they think action is needed

The world in 2032
Asked what life would be like in 2032, respondents painted a sobering picture of social and environmental degradation. The majority believe…

  • Oil will be prohibitively expensive (89%)
  • Climate change will be affecting their lives (85%)
  • The frequency of natural disasters will have increased (80%)
  • Inequality will have increased, both within the UK and between rich and poor countries (over 70%)
  • The Amazon rainforest will have disappeared (61%)
  • A nuclear weapon will have been used (53%)

Given these views it’s not surprising that over 78% of respondents believe serious change is needed if society is going to survive into the next century.

Who’s doing what to bring about change?
Only 16% think that the government is doing ‘a lot’ to bring about change, compared to an alarming 6% for business. Less than a quarter (23%) agree that Gordon Brown is genuinely committed to tackling climate change. For David Cameron the figure is 22%.

Legislation seems to be favoured as a means of delivering change. A surprising 41% think personal carbon quotas would be good for them personally, and nearly half (49%) think these would benefit society as a whole.

Behaviour change: To fly or not to fly?
Today’s university applicants have an acute awareness of the costs of consumption; 86% support the idea that material consumption must reduce and nearly a third describe themselves as ‘environmentalists’.

40% think a tax on air travel would benefit society as a whole, but only 25% think it will benefit them personally. 82% are keen to visit exotic places before they disappear, with only 16% planning to avoid taking a flight for environmental reasons in the next 10 years.

What will make them happy?
Our future leaders were asked what factors will be important to their personal happiness in the next 10 years. The top seven are shown below.

% of respondents saying this will be ‘very important’ to their happiness in the next 10 years:

  • Having a job they find interesting (82%)
  • Spending time with family (68%)
  • Owning a home (46%)
  • Spending time with friends (46%)
  • Being in a long-term relationship (45%)
  • Having a job that contributes to society (40%)
  • Having a job that pays well (39%)

Quotes
Commenting on the findings, Peter Madden, Chief Executive of Forum for the Future, said:
“This generation of students has a heavy burden to bear. They’re the first to be fully aware of the damage that human beings are doing to the planet and the last with a chance to save it. That’s quite some burden, but one that our future leaders seem confident they can carry.”

Anthony McClaran, Chief Executive of UCAS, said:
“This survey provides a fascinating insight into university applicants and their hopes and fears for the future. It’s a timely reminder to everyone working in the higher education sector of the importance that students place on the delivery of the tools and resources needed to continue to secure a sustainable future.”

Ashley Taylor, Friends Provident Plc Senior Manager Corporate Responsibility, said:
"Leading a business in the twenty-first century will require the explicit management of corporate behaviour and the stewardship of the natural resources on which it relies. At the heart of this agenda is the understanding of future constraints and expectations, so we can define priorities for action, and engage in the worldwide debate."

The report can be downloaded from http://www.futureleaderssurvey0708.org.uk

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Forum for the Future – the sustainable development charity – works in partnership with leading organisations in business and the public sector. Our vision is of business and communities thriving in a future that is environmentally sustainable and socially just. We believe that a sustainable future can be achieved and that it is the only way business and communities will prosper. UCAS is the not-for-profit central organisation that manages applications for full-time undergraduate courses at UK universities and colleges.