Sydney University has come under fire from students, staff and green groups over its $1 million stake in mining company Whitehaven Coal.

The university has been accused of flouting its own standards of ethics by investing in the company which is facing growing opposition to its Maules Creek mine development in northern NSW.

The holding represents less than 0.1 per cent of the university’s total long-term investment funds which, according to Greenpeace, equates to an endowment of $1 million.

“What we see here is a university recklessly investing in this company that is constructing the largest coal mine currently being built anywhere in Australia,” said Greenpeace CEO David Ritter.

Environmental activists say Whitehaven has destroyed endangered native forest, farmland and indigenous heritage sites to make way for the new coal mine site.

A university spokeswoman said the institution took its environmental obligations seriously and worked closely with its fund managers to ensure ethical standards were met.

“Our portfolio is under constant review to ensure our environmental, social and governance responsibilities are balanced with our responsibilities to students, staff and donors,” she told AAP.

Clo Schofield from campus student group Fossil-Free USyd cited the university’s decision to divest from tobacco in the 1980s as precedent for the university to act ethically.

“We are confident that the university will make the decision again to invest in line with its ESG policy and commitment to ecological sustainability,” she said.