Top universities promoting marine conservation in 2024

University Impact Rankings for UN SDG 14: Life Below Water

Times Higher Education has recognised 628 universities from 90 countries/regions for their significant contributions to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14: life below water. The top institutions excel in advancing sustainable management of marine resources, protecting coastal ecosystems and combating marine pollution. Through focused research, educational initiatives and direct action, they address challenges such as unregulated fishing, impacts of ocean acidification and the preservation of marine biodiversity.

These leading universities are at the forefront of developing strategies that support the health and sustainability of aquatic ecosystems. By implementing practices that ensure water-sensitive waste disposal and maintaining local marine environments, they significantly contribute to global efforts in marine conservation.

Summary of findings

The ranking for SDG 14: life below water is led by Arizona State University (Tempe). The University of Alberta in Canada takes second place.

The UK has 17 institutions in the top 100, followed by Australia with 11 and Canada with 10.

Newcomer Griffith University, in Australia, makes it straight into the top 10, at joint ninth place (alongside Cardiff University in the UK).

Japan has the most universities in the table overall (41).


Our methodology for SDG 14: life below water includes detailed indicators that measure universities’ effectiveness in promoting the sustainability of marine life:

Research on life below water (27%)

  • Number of studies focusing on sustainable management of fisheries, the impacts of human activities on marine biodiversity and understanding and mitigating the effects of ocean acidification and marine pollution
  • Proportion of marine-related research in top journals
  • Field-weighted citation impact of marine-related research

Supporting aquatic ecosystems through education (15.3%)

  • Educational programmes and initiatives that raise awareness about the importance of marine conservation

Supporting aquatic ecosystems through action (19.4%)

  • Direct involvement in projects or partnerships that actively protect and restore marine and coastal ecosystems
  • Policy to ensure that seafood on campus is sustainably harvested

Water-sensitive waste disposal (19.3%)

  • Implementation of systems and practices that minimise the release of harmful substances into waterways
  • Efforts to ensure that all waste disposal methods are environmentally friendly and do not harm aquatic life

Maintaining a local ecosystem (19%)

  • Actions taken to preserve and enhance the local marine and coastal environments associated with the university
  • Community engagement projects that involve local stakeholders in marine conservation efforts

The Impact Rankings are inherently dynamic: they are growing rapidly each year as many more universities seek to demonstrate their commitment to delivering the SDGs by joining our database; and they allow institutions to demonstrate rapid improvement year-on-year, by introducing clear new policies, for example, or by providing clearer and more open evidence of their progress. Therefore, we expect and welcome regular change in the ranked order of institutions (and we discourage year-on-year comparisons) as universities continue to drive this urgent agenda.

View the overall Impact Rankings 2024

Read our analysis of the Impact Rankings 2024 results

Download a free copy of the Impact Rankings 2024 digital report

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Explore Impact Rankings for individual SDGs