Almost 13,000 students are studying courses related to renewable energy at Scotland’s universities and colleges as the country “upskills” to tackle climate change, according to new research.
Students are studying courses ranging from energy finance and policy (University of Edinburgh) and countryside management (Scotland’s Rural College) to tourism sustainability and climate change (University of Glasgow), the Scottish Renewables study found.
Thirty-one institutions across the country responded to a freedom of information request for data in the survey, said to be the first of its kind.
It found more than a third (36%) of the 12,885 students on such courses are female.
Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said the figures show the shift to low-carbon energy is providing opportunities across Scotland.
She said: “We already know that the Scottish renewable sector supports an estimated 17,700 jobs, so it’s exciting to see the scale of the workforce of the future, and the enormous range of courses being studied which relate in some way to Scotland’s renewable energy future.
“These figures show clearly that the shift to low-carbon energy is providing opportunities across Scotland, with education providers and students seeing value in a career which promises so much.
“With a net-zero target in place and stretching targets on cutting carbon emissions from electricity, heat and transport, it’s heartening to see that Scotland is upskilling its young people as we move towards the smart, low-carbon energy system which is needed to tackle climate change.”
The figures have been released as part of the Scottish Renewable Energy Festival, which runs until October 1 and aims to reflect on Scotland’s renewables achievements to date, and on the sector’s future ambitions.
On Wednesday, Holyrood approved a cut in emissions of 75% by 2030 – a new target tougher than the 70% reduction originally proposed by Scottish ministers.
The climate change legislation also commits Scotland to achieving net-zero emissions by 2045 – five years ahead of the rest of the UK
Further and higher education minister Richard Lochhead said: “People in Scotland are highly engaged with environmental issues and it is fantastic that so many are taking this a step further by studying for careers related to low-carbon and renewable energy – helping to prepare Scotland to play an active role in tackling the global climate emergency.
“We are encouraging people from all backgrounds to train for roles in renewable sectors and are also supporting more women to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We are committed to ensuring a just transition to a growing net-zero economy which is both equitable and inclusive.”