Impact Rankings 2021: zero hunger (SDG 2) methodology

April 14, 2021

This ranking focuses on universities’ research on hunger, their teaching on food sustainability and their commitment to tackle food waste and address hunger among students and local communities.

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


Research on hunger (27%)

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

This focuses on research that is relevant to hunger, measuring the proportion of papers in the top 10 per cent of cited journals, citation impact and the volume of research produced. 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 2 (zero hunger) and supplemented by additional publications identified by artificial intelligence. The data include all indexed publications between 2015 and 2019 and are normalised across the range using Z-scoring.

Campus food waste (15.4%)

  • Campus food waste tracking (7.7%)
  • Campus food waste per person (7.7%)

This is a new metric in the 2021 ranking. The first indicator confirms whether a university measures the amount of food waste generated from food served within the institution. The second indicator is based on data on the total amount of food that is discarded or left uneaten by all catering services on campus and the full-time equivalent campus population in the 2019 academic year. However, these values will only be scored where universities have indicated that they are measuring food waste.

The data and evidence for these indicators were provided directly by universities and the data were normalised. 

Student hunger (19.2%)

  • Programme on student food insecurity (4.8%)
  • Interventions to target hunger among students and staff – for example, provide access to food banks (4.8%)
  • Sustainable food choices for all on campus, including vegetarian and vegan food (4.8%)
  • Healthy and affordable food choices for all on campus (4.8%)

Universities have a responsibility to ensure that their students have access to nutritious, affordable food. The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by Times Higher Education and not normalised.

Proportion of graduates in food sustainability (19.2%)

For this metric, we measure the proportion of graduates who receive a degree associated with any aspect of food sustainability within an agricultural or aquacultural course, out of the institution’s total number of graduates. It aims to capture whether a university actively teaches food sustainability within undergraduate and postgraduate agriculture and aquaculture courses.

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

National hunger (19.2%)

  • Provide food security and sustainable agriculture and aquaculture knowledge, skills or technology to local farmers and food producers (4.8%)
  • Events for local farmers and food producers to connect and transfer knowledge (4.8%)
  • Access to university facilities for local famers and food producers to improve sustainable farming practices (4.8%)
  • Prioritise purchase of products from local, sustainable sources (4.8%)

These indicators measure a university’s effort to address hunger at a national level. Hunger is defined as a severe lack of food, causing suffering or death.

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by THE 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.


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


The ranking is open to any university that teaches at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. Although research activities form part of the methodology, there is no minimum research requirement for participation.

THE reserves the right to exclude universities that they believe have falsified data, or are no longer in good standing.

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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