UK students hopes, fears and expectations – 2008

The Future Leaders Survey is an annual bit of research into the hopes and expectations of (here, over 20,000) university and college applicants, undertaken by UCAS and Forum for the Future (‘action for a sustainable world’) among others. This year’s report is out.

Imagine that it’s 2032 and we’re living in the world that our survey group has predicted for us. It’s not a comfortable place to be. The Amazon rainforest has disappeared, oil is prohibitively expensive and we are beset by ever more frequent natural disasters. The world is riven by wars old and new, the Israel-Palestine conflict continues and we’re reeling from the use of nuclear weapons. Inequality has increased, both within the UK and globally. And despite the worst effects of climate change, there is still no binding international CO2 emissions reduction treaty. A bleak picture, but this is seen as the most likely outcome according to half or more respondents in the 2007/08 survey.

Four fifths believe that lifestyles need to change radically across the board, or in many areas, for human civilisation to survive the next 100 years

By 2032 over half think it’s likely or very likely that ‘a nuclear weapon will have been used’ but only 16% that the Israel / Palestine conflict will have been resolved. 9% think that famine in Africa will have ended.

Whose responsibility is it to create change? 84% mentioned the government but only 16% of those thought they were doing ‘a lot’ to create change; 71% mentioned individuals but only 10% of those thought they were doing ‘a lot’. But business was only mentioned by 45% of respondents and only 6% of those thought that businesses were doing a lot.

86% believe that material consumption has to decrease. Respondents mentioned alternatives to private transport and buying local food. Nearly one third think of themselves as environmentalists, but few are considering giving up flying. Roughly half are up for personal carbon quotas.

Interestingly African, non-UK European and Far Eastern respondents were more inclined than UK respondents to consider the environment as a factor in deciding how many children to have, to describe themselves as environmentalists and to relate knowledge of sustainable development to their chances of getting the job of their choice.

Only 34% of men and 29% of women said a job which contributed to society would be important to their happiness in the next ten years. When thinking about factors in choosing an organisation to work for, sustainability and global development were far down in the list of priorities. Salary wasn’t at the top though – career development and work-life balance were.

81% said they were very or quite good at managing money (they’d better be).

And what did they think would make them happy? Go and have a look.

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