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Wildlife and biodiversity

A key characteristic of the University of York is our lakeside campuses, that are home to an abundance of wildlife. The evolving landscape is designed not only to provide a beautiful and tranquil environment for work and study, but a habitat capable of supporting an increasingly diverse range of animals and plants.

Wildlife on campus

The development of Campus East has created a number of new habitats, including areas of wetland, species-rich grassland and native woodland, with the boundary of the site including important retained hedgerows. A survey of flora and wildlife including birds, bats and water voles is periodically undertaken to monitor developments.

Our Campus West campus is located on over 200 acres of parkland centered around Europe's largest plastic-bottomed lake. The University is famous for its abundance of wildfowl, but also hosts a diverse range of other wildlife. A bird sanctuary has been established at the southern end of the lake.

Principles of bio-diversity and wildlife management

In practical terms the management and development of the bio-diversity of our campuses follow these principles:

  • We time the type of work we do carefully to reduce the impact we have on species that may be breeding, feeding or hibernating. For example hedge cutting is carried out in the winter months to avoid disturbing nesting birds
  • Where possible we substitute chemical pesticides with a cultural control; where we do use pesticides we choose those with the lowest hazard rating
  • We practise low intervention horticulture where appropriate, e.g. leaving perennials to stand over winter to provide food sources
  • We reduce chemical usage, e.g. we use our own composted green waste as fertilizer where possible
  • Shrub beds and planting schemes use a variety of species with a range of flowering times and winter berries to provide food for all seasons
  • We provide additional shelter for wildlife for example with bird boxes, wood stacks and habitat piles
  • A diversity of trees and plants provide different heights and foliage for different types of wildlife
  • We manage trees and woodlands to encourage biodiversity for example by controlling invasive non-native species and retaining old trees and dead wood

See our Ecological management plan 2019 to 2025 (PDF , 1,716kb) for a more detailed look at how we will continue to manage, maintain and encourage the diversity of our campus.

Campus development

The University of York is a top-ranked institution worldwide. We are growing to sustain our international position, to compete effectively, to maintain our high ranking status, to drive the local and regional economy, and to meet the national higher education agenda. But we are committed to ensuring that we grow in a managed and sustainable way, and that the benefits of our success are shared with our local community.

Investment in campus

Since 2000, the University has invested hundreds of millions to upgrade and expand its campus facilities, including a huge campus expansion programme for Campus East, new colleges, new buildings for departments, a sports village and other sporting facilities and a dedicated teaching and learning building.

For students studying at York, our investment means major improvements to existing campus facilities, and the construction of new academic and social buildings, study spaces and college accommodation. For our researchers and postgraduate students this means state-of-the-art resources and equipment to facilitate their world-class research.


One of the academic objectives for the campus expansion is to bring together people from different backgrounds to create new opportunities for learning. The designs of the buildings will facilitate this by creating common space for both social interaction and learning, while retaining the specialist needs for individual departments.

The buildings are designed to be distinctive and sympathetic to the environmental setting. The planning development brief has set an upper limit on the density of the development and the height of the buildings is constrained to minimise their visual impact. Many of our new buildings have won awards for their design including accolades from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Our new buildings aim to achieve a 'Very Good' BREEAM rating for environmental performance. BREEAM is the world's most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings.

Our local community

We work closely with local residents, businesses and City of York Council to ensure that the benefits of our success are shared by our local community. We encourage visitors onto campus and have created a wonderful local amenity with the woodlands and wildlife making up our campuses.

We are continuing to develop these facilities, with woodland and lakeside walks developed as part of our Campus East expansion.

Other local and outreach benefits to the community include:

  • Our public lecture series - an annual series of guest speakers presenting lectures on various topics which are open to the public
  • Festival of ideas - the University works in partnership to celebrate the vibrancy of York, events are open to the public
  • Science trails - the University works with children at key-stage 4 to give an introduction to scientific research through a science trail around the University

Did you know...?

  • The University is only allowed to build on 25% of the campus footprint?
  • A 24 hectare site on Heslington East has been chosen by the Woodland Trust to be one of just 60 Diamond Woods in the UK to celebrate the 2012 Queen's Jubilee
  • You can get your daily fix of York fowl by following Duck of the Day

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