Impact Rankings 2022: hundreds of universities have SDG courses

Institutions from over 100 countries offer dedicated courses on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, THE data show

April 27, 2022
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Browse the full Impact Rankings 2022 results

More than 1,250 universities globally have dedicated education programmes that address sustainability, data from the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings reveal.

The institutions offering full degree programmes or elective courses that focus specifically on sustainability and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals span 105 countries, from Aalborg University in Denmark to Zonguldak Bülent Ecevit University in Turkey. The indicator is a new metric in the 2022 edition of the Impact Rankings for SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals), which looks at the broader ways in which universities support the SDGs through collaboration with other countries, promotion of best practices and publication of data. Previously, universities were asked only if they had “a commitment to meaningful education around the SDGs across the university”.

In total, 1,256 universities said they offered such courses, which is 87 per cent of institutions that submitted data on SDG 17. Universities receive full points for this metric if they provide solid public evidence of the courses they provide.

The country with the highest number of institutions receiving full points for the metric is the UK; its tally of 52 accounts for 98 per cent of UK universities participating in the table.

All 24 Canadian universities that participated in the ranking for SDG 17, which also measures research publications that relate to the SDGs, received full points for courses on the SDGs. Similarly, all 10 universities participating from Ireland, all eight from New Zealand, all seven from Germany and all five from Sweden offer SDG courses.

Japan has the second highest total number of universities receiving full points for running courses, 43 – but this makes up only 56 per cent of Japanese institutions that took part in the ranking for SDG 17. The US has the third highest figure, 39, which accounts for 91 per cent of American universities participating. There are 29 Indian universities receiving full points for teaching courses on the goals, but this is less than half the total taking part in the ranking.

Some universities offer non-accredited short courses on the SDGs, while others offer full degrees in sustainable development.

The University of Liverpool is joint top of the table for SDG 17. Gavin Brown, pro vice-chancellor for education at the institution, said Liverpool had mapped its existing education provision to the SDGs, and had developed additional courses and modules linked to sustainability.

“We are committed to developing our students with the skills and knowledge they need to become agents for change in the world,” he said. “The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals provide an important focus on the global challenges we face, and our students and alumni have the passion and talent necessary to make a difference.”

The University of Newcastle in Australia is ranked fourth for SDG 17. It offers 11 degrees focused specifically on sustainability, ranging from a bachelor’s in coastal and marine science to a master’s in environmental management and sustainability. All its degrees in engineering, science, the built environment, law and business also cover sustainability.

Mark Hoffman, Newcastle’s deputy vice-chancellor (academic), said sustainability was “at the heart” of the university’s core values and strategic priorities.

“As an organisation, we are committed to creating a better and fairer future, and we want our research and teaching to benefit all our communities,” he said.

“Universities have a responsibility to use their research, education and teaching capabilities to ensure we create a sustainable future.”

This year, 1,524 universities were ranked in one or more of the Impact Rankings tables, up from 1,239 in 2021. To feature in the overall ranking, universities must submit data on SDG 17 and at least three other SDGs of their choosing.

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