The Times Higher Education issues annual Impact Rankings based on four approaches to advancing the SDGs: research, stewardship, outreach, and teaching.
In the 2021 rankings, the top ten include universities in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, the US, and New Zealand, while schools in other countries rank first on specific SDGs.
In a separate initiative, the presidents of 56 universities in 30 countries signed a commitment to work together to meet the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.
A higher education publication has issued its 2021 findings on the SDG performance of universities globally. The top ten include higher education institutions in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, the US, and New Zealand. Universities in Portugal and South Korea rank as most improved.
The Times Higher Education issues annual Impact Rankings based on four approaches to advancing the SDGs: research, stewardship, outreach, and teaching. It provides a ranking of overall SDG performance as well as on each of the 17 Global Goals.
According to the 2021 rankings, released on 21 April, the highest-scoring institution is the University of Manchester in the UK. The Times Higher Education calls UK, Australia, and Canada the “golden triangle” of countries that scored most highly overall. The publication reports that some of the metrics used in the rankings are “considered ‘just good practice’ in the UK, such as public access to facilities or engagement in outreach.”
Universities in other countries rank first on specific SDGs, such as:
- SDG 2 (zero hunger): Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico;
- SDG 5 (gender equality): Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in Saudi Arabia;
- SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy): King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Thailand; and
- SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth): University of Johannesburg in South Africa.
The Times Higher Education reports that the most improvement in the rankings between 2020 and 2021 was found in universities in Portugal – due to its increased scores on SDGs 3, 16, and 17 – and South Korea – which had improved the most on SDGs 4, 5, and 10. According to the article, Portuguese universities have increasingly made sustainable development part of their strategic plans and established sustainability offices. They also created the Portuguese Sustainable Campus Network to help university staff exchange knowledge and best practices. In South Korea, meanwhile, universities have followed the lead set by the government in the Green New Deal and Digital New Deal.
In related news, in late March 2021, the presidents of 56 universities in 30 countries signed a commitment to work together to meet the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. The signatories agreed to a five-part initiative:
• Implement the concept of sustainable development across activities and operations;
• Improve sustainable development competence of students, faculty and staff;
• Support a wider spectrum of scientific research, including blue-sky discovery and transdisciplinary research, in response to global challenges;
• Work with global partners to provide innovative solutions and leveraging technology; and
• Uphold open science to facilitate constructive cross-border collaboration to solve specific problems.
The leaders were gathered at an online forum hosted by Zhejiang University (ZJU) in China on ‘The Role of Universities in the 2030 Agenda.’ Individual universities highlighted their SDG-related initiatives during the meeting. ZJU announced a plan that includes making sustainability a part of campus culture, becoming a leader of low-carbon action, and turning its campuses into “resource-conserving and environmentally friendly living laboratories.”
Also providing inspiration for universities, a booklet from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) contains specific ideas drawing on behavioral science to change behaviors on campus. The publication provides a list of “green nudges” to encourage more sustainable practices among students and staff. [Press release on rankings] [Article on most improved universities] [Full rankings] [Joint statement of university leaders] [Article on university leaders forum]