The University aims to limit annual emissions from air travel to 50% of our 2018/19 level (pre the Covid-19 pandemic). The following outlines Travel Policy requirements and supporting guidance to help you weigh up essential travel against environmental cost.
We acknowledge that international travel is an integral part of working in academia and key to maintaining collaborations and enhancing global presence. Our intention is not to eliminate flying but to actively reconsider our high carbon practices and habits to create a new, lower carbon, norm. Our travel FAQs address concerns you may have when attempting to reduce your air travel.
To remain a world leading university we must deliver our world-class research and education in lower carbon ways.
Travellers and bookers should ensure the points below have been considered.
Approvers are responsible for ensuring the trip is appropriate and within policy.
- Consider whether the activity could be successfully carried out online, without travelling.
- When travel is necessary, travellers must assess different journey options and preference should be for the most carbon-efficient option possible even if it is more expensive.
- Rail should be the default option for travel within mainland UK. Exceptions to this will be approved locally.
- When feasible, travel to European destinations within reasonable reach of the high-speed rail network should be made by train.
- Business class and first class travel are out of policy. Business class air travel may be permitted for journeys outside Europe with the prior written approval of the Head of School.
- Question why you are attending the meeting or event?
- Could you achieve your goals without being physically present?
- Could you use alternative means of disseminating and networking?
- Could you use video conferencing particularly for recurring meetings? UoM support for Video Conferencing and Microsoft Teams.
- Could you reduce the frequency of meetings?
- Consider delegating only one representative for group travel and perhaps rotating this as needed.
- Could you combine or extend trips to get the most from them?
Travel without flying
- Rail should be our default for domestic travel and Northern European hubs (e.g. Paris and Brussels). Many other European destinations are also accessible by rail so consider this for onward connections to places such as Lyon, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Frankfurt.
- Use carbon.manchester.ac.uk to compare carbon footprints for air, rail, ferry and electric/fossil fuel car travel.
- When developing research proposals cost low-carbon travel options.
- The Man in Seat 61 provides information on how to get just about anywhere by train and ferry, plus guidance and support.
- Top-UpFund: Access the top-up fund to cover additional costs that arise from making sustainable travel choices rather than flying.
Fly when there are no alternatives
- For some destinations inside and outside of Europe, flying may be the only practical option.
- Use the Tyndall Centre Travel Strategy or Air Travel Justification Tool to help you determine the importance of attending the conference or event.
- Travel economy class; first and business class air travel has up to 4 times the environmental impact of economy travel.
- Choose non-stop, direct flights as landing and take-off are a high proportion of a flight’s carbon emissions.
- Think about how to get the most from your trip; for example, are there other meetings or events you could attend at the same time which might reduce the need for travel in the future?
Book all travel through Key Travel.
Media Services can provide video conferencing for a variety of different events including:
- Phd VIVA
- Research group collaboration
- Conference appearances
There are dedicated video conference suites, portable video conference facilities for larger meetings and loan equipment for huddle space conferencing.
Consider including a remote option for activities with external visitors (e.g. conferences and symposia with option for presenters to present remotely).
At carbon.manchester.ac.uk you can compare carbon footprints for air, rail, ferry and electric/fossil fuel car travel.
- View the carbon footprint of any flight and Eurostar train journey by clicking ‘details’ button.
- Show the lowest carbon option first by selecting ‘sort by greenest’ option.
- Use the basket to compare different routes side by side, including carbon footprints.
Examples of carbon footprints of conference attendance
Attending remotely or by train has much lower impacts compared to flying. The different shades illustrate the effects of different ticket classes. Business class has much higher impacts than economy due to the extra space and resources needed per seat.
Sources for the image below: UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Greenhouse gas reporting: conversion factors 2022, Obringer et al. 2021, The overlooked environmental footprint of increasing internet use and https://www.distance.to/
Emissions intensities of various forms of travel
Figures show grams of carbon dioxide-equivalents emitted per passenger per kilometre. This includes the impact of increased warming from aviation emissions at altitude.
Source for the image below: UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Greenhouse gas reporting: conversion factors 2022.
- Set country to UK on welcome tab to ensure correct emissions factors are used.
- Use tabs to calculate carbon emissions from flights, car, motorbike, bus, rail, tram and taxi journeys.
- Book European rail travel through Key Travel’s online booking tool.
- European rail has recently been added to the online booking tool with access to the full rail network within Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands and certain cross-border trains through Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
- Bookings must start from London – follow Key Travel guidance to book European Rail.
The Man in Seat 61 provides information on how to get just about anywhere by train and ferry, plus guidance and support.
We understand that making sustainable travel choices can be more expensive and/or inconvenient. To assist, The University has a top-up fund to cover additional costs that arise from making sustainable travel choices rather than flying.
- Complete this form – link https://forms.office.com/r/TKVZcpU2Ph
- Add into the comments box in Key Travel that you are using the sustainable travel top up fund when you book your travel
- Charge the travel to your usual finance code, whichever code usually funds your travel
- Once approved the finance team will collect the data linked from the form to determine the difference in additional cost and ensure this is accounted for correctly, which will ensure that funding is not a barrier to choosing a sustainable travel option.
We acknowledge that some travel is necessary to carry out research and we encourage colleagues to consider whether the proposed travel is essential to deliver the objectives of the research project. Consider how to minimise and reduce travel where possible. Use the travel decision tree, tips and resources on this page to help.
Low carbon travel stories
- See how other colleagues are taking action to reduce their travel emissions.
- Share how you have avoided or reduced your travel, switched to a lower-carbon alternative or maximised the value of travel by combining trips.
- Rail travel should be the default for UK mainland travel.
- For business travel by car, consider an electric or hybrid car and ride-share where possible.
- Rental cars tend to be more efficient than private vehicles.
The University’s current policy is not to directly purchase emission offset credits, allowances or units unless stipulated as a requirement by a funding organisation. Any offsets purchased will not contribute to our carbon reduction targets.
- Guidance for research funders carbon offset policies for travel
The University of Manchester is concerned about the efficacy and legitimacy of paying others to reduce our impact on the climate. Instead we seek to directly minimise our carbon emissions particularly when we use energy in our buildings and when we travel.
This graph shows how our University is doing in its aim to limit annual emissions from air travel to 50% of our 2018/19 level (pre the Covid-19 pandemic).
We have changed our travel policy as part of a wider project to reduce our total carbon footprint, not just from our business travel but also our buildings, fleet vehicles, what we buy and our investments.
To monitor our progress, we are comparing carbon emissions for business travel for each quarter of this academic year (2022-23) with the same one of 2018-19.
You can see this on the graph below:
Insurance and Risk
Wherever and whenever you travel there will be some form of risk involved. You are strongly advised that regardless of destination you complete a risk assessment. A new flowchart has been developed which simplifies the requirements around pre-travel risk assessments, both in the UK and overseas. It can be found via a new suitcase icon on the StaffNet home page, as well as on the Compliance and Risk webpages, where the content has also been streamlined and updated.
If you are planning to travel away from the University – whether it is on University business such as a conference or meeting, or for research fieldwork – your trip may require a risk assessment and pre-travel approval.
When you travel, your safety is paramount. It is therefore important that you use this flowchart prior to booking travel, to ensure all risks have been identified and you comply with the University’s Travel Policy and the University’s health and safety guidance on working off campus.
Please note that the associated generic Risk Assessment forms should be checked by a person who may be either the supervisor/manager of the traveller or the local safety advisor of the School/Department. For trips to high risk countries, the Risk Assessment form should again be checked by the supervisor/manager of the traveller or the local safety advisor before going to the Head of School (or their delegate for this purpose) to seek pre-travel approval.
The Insurance Office - Travel page provides a summary of the insurance coverage for University business travel and student travel.
Do check the websites below for the latest travel advice and to check they have all necessary visas, documents and sufficient passport validity and blank pages for the countries they are visiting. If the traveller is not a UK passport holder, additional steps may be required before travel. Always check visa requirements with the embassies of the countries you’re visiting or passing through.
- Insurance Office - Travel
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)
- AIG Travel Assistance
- Key Travel Visa & Passport Services
- Occupational Health
Fitness to Travel
By booking or requesting a trip it is understood that you are fit to travel and that if you have any medical needs you have taken this fully into account. If your circumstances change between booking and the travel then you are expected to review your fitness to travel and take necessary actions. If in doubt please discuss your situation with Occupation Health: