The criticisms follow a survey showing that the majority of colleges have neglected environmental issues in favour of other high-profile concerns such as equal opportunities. Little progress in developing college policy had been made in the past three years.
The survey, carried out by education environmentalist Shirley Ali Khan for the Department for Education and Employment, examined efforts colleges have made to implement the recommendations of the Toyne Report published three years ago.
In 1990 Peter Toyne, vice-chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, was commissioned by the Government to carry out work for further and higher education. He called for an environmental policy statement and action plan in every college by the end of 1995.
Three-quarters of the colleges which replied to the DFEE survey had produced an environmental policy. A third have carried out a review and slightly more than 10 per cent employ an environmental co-ordinator.
Peter Toyne says colleges still do not consider the environment as a high priority. "The vast majority are making no headway and failing to deliver a deeper understanding of the environment to students." Calling on colleges to take action, he added: "The world of FE must wake up."
Environment Secretary John Gummer criticised colleges which allow students to leave totally "environmentally uneducated".
David Brown, principal of Dunstable College, praised in the report for its environmental policy, says colleges have had so much to deal with that green issues have not been central.
Hackney Community College in east London which also has a strong environmental policy and says its programme would not have been possible without external funding.
Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard, urged colleges to embrace green concerns in the same way as schools to develop students' environmental knowledge.