Impact Rankings 2023: sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) methodology

May 25, 2023

This ranking looks beyond the traditional view of sustainability as being about stewardship of resources to examine the role of a university in sustaining and preserving the heritage of communities. It explores institutions’ research on sustainability, their role as custodians of arts and heritage and their internal approaches to sustainability.

View the methodology for the Impact Rankings 2023 to find out how these data are used in the overall ranking.


Research on sustainable cities and communities (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 sustainable cities and communities. 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 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and supplemented by additional publications identified by artificial intelligence. The data include all indexed publications between 2017 and 2021. The data are normalised across the range using Z-scoring.

Support of arts and heritage (22.6%)

  • Public access to buildings and/or monuments or natural heritage landscapes of cultural significance at the university (3.75%)
  • Public access to university libraries (3.75%)
  • Public access to university museums and collections (3.75%)
  • Public access to open and green spaces (3.75%)
  • Provide artistic events for members of the public, such as concerts (3.8%)
  • Record and preserve local heritage (3.8%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by THE and not normalised.

Expenditure on arts and heritage (15.3%)

This measures the proportion of total university expenditure spent directly on arts and heritage, excluding spending on sports facilities.

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

Sustainable practices (35.1%)

  • Targets around sustainable commuting (3.9%)
  • Promote sustainable commuting (3.9%)
  • Encourage telecommuting, remote working or condensed working weeks (3.9%)
  • Provide affordable housing for students and staff (7.8%)
  • Provide priority to pedestrians on campus (3.9%)
  • Work with local authorities on planning issues (3.9%)
  • Build to sustainable standards (3.9%)
  • Build on brownfield sites (3.9%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by THE and not normalised.


When we ask about policies and initiatives – for example, the existence of mentoring programmes – our metrics require universities to provide the evidence to support their claims. In these cases, we give credit for the evidence, and for the evidence being public. These metrics are not usually size normalised.

Evidence is evaluated against a set of criteria, and decisions are cross-validated where there is uncertainty. Evidence need not be exhaustive – we are looking for examples that demonstrate best practice at the institutions concerned.

Time frame

In general, the data used refer to the closest academic year to January to December 2021. The date range for each metric is specified in the full methodology document.


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 it believes 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 2023 here.

The THE Impact Rankings 2023 will be published at 11:30am BST on 1 June.

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