Impact Rankings 2021: partnerships for the goals (SDG 17) methodology

April 14, 2021

This ranking looks at the broader ways in which universities support the SDGs through collaboration with other countries, the promotion of best practices and the publication of data. Unless all partners work together towards the SDGs, they cannot be achieved.

This is the only compulsory SDG for inclusion in the overall rankings. It is also worth a smaller proportion of the final score in the overall table.

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


Research into partnerships for the goals (27.1%)

  • Proportion of academic publications with co-author from low or lower-middle income country (13.55%)
  • Number of publications that relate to the 17 SDGs (13.55%)

The first indicator measures the proportion of academic publications that are co-authored by someone from another country. The country that the partner organisation is in must be defined as low income or lower-middle income by the World Bank.

The second indicator measures the number of publications that relate to the 17 SDGs.

The data are provided by Elsevier’s Scopus dataset and normalised across the range using Z-scoring. The dataset includes all indexed publications between 2015 and 2019.

Relationships to support the goals (18.5%)

  • SDG policy development with government (3.7%)
  • Cross-sectoral dialogue about SDGs with government or NGOs (3.7%)
  • Collaborate internationally to capture data relating to SDGs (3.7%)
  • Collaborate internationally to develop best practice on tackling SDGs (3.7%)
  • Collaborate with NGOs to tackle SDGs through student volunteering programmes, research programmes or educational resources (3.7%)

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

Publication of SDG reports (27.2%)

We asked institutions whether they published specific data on their performance against each of the 17 SDGs. We gave extra credit for documents that are in the public domain.

The evidence for this metric was evaluated and scored by THE and was not normalised.

Education for the SDGs (27.2%)

This metric explores how universities are teaching the next generation to adopt sustainability in their lives. We asked institutions whether they have a commitment to meaningful education around the SDGs in some programmes or in all programmes.

The evidence for this metric was evaluated and scored by THE and was 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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