From nature documentaries highlighting the crisis of plastic in the oceans to companies being forced to acknowledge gender disparities in pay, consumers and corporations are becoming wiser to some of the world’s biggest concerns. And no one understands the importance of championing and tackling these more than universities and students.
But which universities are taking these global issues and incorporating them into their governance? And how can we measure the real impact that universities are making on their students and wider communities?
Times Higher Education has put together the first ever University Impact Rankings to shine a light on those institutions that are working hard to tackle global issues such as gender inequality, quality education for all, climate change, achieving peaceful societies and economic growth.
To put together the ranking we mapped how universities around the world are committing to 11 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a global call to action to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality. Among the goals we have included in the ranking are those on good health and well-being, reduced inequalities and climate action.
Universities were invited to submit data on how they were progressing on four or more of the goals. More than 500 universities submitted data for this first ever ranking. You can read more about the methodology here.
This ranking is a crucial resource for students choosing a university, because it moves away from assessing universities on their research output, and focuses instead on the impact that universities are having on some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Top five universities in the University Impact Ranking 2019
1. University of Auckland
New Zealand’s University of Auckland has taken first place in the inaugural University Impact Rankings. The university claimed the top spot in two of the individual goals: good health and well-being and partnership for the goals. It also scored highly for gender equality and sustainable cities and communities. It appeared in the top 20 in eight of the 11 goals ranked by the Impact Ranking.
The university is dedicated to promoting the work of the UN SDGs and has worked with universities across New Zealand to create a cohesive, national plan on contributing to the SDGs.
A number of initiatives have been introduced across campus to promote aspects of the goals, such as a staff cycling scheme, changes in printing access to reduce paper waste, recycling workshops and clothing swaps.
2. McMaster University
McMaster University ranked joint first for decent work and economic growth and came second for good health and well-being. This means that the university does a particularly good job at preparing students for the world of work, as well as taking steps to minimise the gender pay gap and provide the living wage for staff.
This Canadian university is promoting the SDGs in many ways. The university has developed a series of courses that can be taken by the general public about the work of the SDGs and what they aim to achieve. Students were also invited to present data-driven solutions to some of the SDGs to a panel of experts at the Visualise 2030 summit in January 2019. More than 1,000 students took part and five winners were selected.
= 3. University of British Columbia
Students at the University of British Columbia are taking sustainability into their own hands as some of them have been appointed sustainability ambassadors. The ambassadors will be hosting a sustainability roundtable for student clubs and organisations to boost awareness of the SDGs and increase collaboration among various student groups.
There will also be a sustainability fair showcasing businesses, organisations, and student groups that aim to create more inclusive communities. The aim is to educate students about some of the sustainability issues that they may be less familiar with, and to promote new or innovative methods of practising sustainability.
=3. University of Manchester
In November 2018, the University of Manchester signed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Accord. By signing the Accord, the university has committed to annually reporting how it contributes to the SDGs and how it is involving students, staff, local communities and external stakeholders.
The University of Manchester was ranked across all 11 of the SDGs included in the University Impact Rankings. It came joint first in partnership for the goals and scored highly in sustainable cities and communities, good health and well-being and responsible consumption and production.
5. King’s College London
King’s College London also has its own team of sustainability champions, who aim to make residences and the campus a more sustainable working environment.
The university website also has tips on how staff and students can be more sustainable across a number of areas, including eating, travelling, recycling and how societies can be more sustainable.