Impact Rankings 2021: climate action (SDG 13) methodology

April 14, 2021

This ranking explores universities’ research on climate change, their use of energy and their preparations for dealing with the consequences of climate change.

View the methodology for the Impact Rankings 2021 to find out how these data are used in the overall ranking.


Research on climate action (27%)

  • Proportion of papers in the top 10 per cent of journals as defined by Citescore (10%)
  • Field-weighted citation index of papers produced by the university (10%)
  • Number of publications (7%)

This focuses on research that is relevant to climate action. The field-weighted citation index is a subject-normalised score of the citation performance of publications.

The data are provided by Elsevier’s Scopus dataset, based on a query of keywords associated with SDG 13 (climate action) and supplemented by additional publications identified by artificial intelligence. The dataset includes all indexed publications between 2015 and 2019. The data are normalised across the range using Z-scoring.

Low-carbon energy use (27%)

This measures the proportion of electricity from low-carbon sources. It refers to the gigajoules (GJ) of total energy used and energy used from low-carbon sources. The total energy used includes both energy generated by the university and energy purchased by the university.

The data were provided directly by universities and normalised across the range using Z-scoring.

Environmental education measures (23%)

  • Local education programmes or campaigns on climate change (4.6%)
  • Existence of university climate action plan shared with local government and community groups (4.6%)
  • Working with local or national government to plan for climate change disasters (4.6%)
  • Inform and support local or regional government on issues associated with climate change (4.6%)
  • Collaborate with NGOs on climate change adaptation (4.6%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by Times Higher Education and not normalised.

Commitment to carbon neutral university (23%)

  • Commitment to carbon neutrality (11.5%)
  • Achieve by date (11.5%)

The first indicator asks whether the university has a target date by which it will become carbon neutral, according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and the second indicator asks when carbon neutrality for both Scopes 1 and 2 is expected to be achieved (or whether it has already been achieved).

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by Times Higher Education and not normalised.


When we ask about policies and initiatives, our metrics require universities to provide the evidence to support their claims. Evidence is evaluated against a set of criteria and decisions are cross-validated where there is uncertainty. Evidence is not required to be exhaustive – we are looking for examples that demonstrate best practice at the institutions concerned.

Time frame

Unless otherwise stated, the data used refer to the closest academic year to January to December 2019.


Universities must teach undergraduates and be validated by a recognised accreditation body to be included in the ranking.

Data collection

Institutions provide and sign off their institutional data for use in the rankings. On the rare occasions when a particular data point is not provided, we enter a value of zero.

View the full methodology for the THE Impact Rankings 2021 here

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