From the crisis of plastic in the oceans to gender disparities in pay, the world’s biggest concerns are more and more in the minds consumers and corporations. And no one understands the importance of tackling these better than universities and students.
But which universities are incorporating these global issues 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 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, and achieving peaceful societies and economic growth.
To put together the rankings, we mapped how universities around the world are committing to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a global call to action to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality.
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 Impact Rankings 2021
The University of Manchester has taken the first place for the first time this year, and it’s also the first time a UK university has ranked number one in the Impact Rankings.
The university takes the number one position for SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production). It also appears in the top 20 in seven other SDG tables.
The university has committed to developing work on the SDGs through its research, teaching, public engagement and campus operations. The university has produced a document that lays out the initiatives and research projects the university has committed to in relation to each SDG. These include a student-led food bank, a bike-sharing scheme and incorporating teaching on the SDGs in a range of courses.
The University of Sydney retains its second place in this year’s Impact Rankings. The university also takes the first place for SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation).
The university is supported by more than 90 research centres investigating areas such as disease prevention, crop production, smart transport solutions and reef conservation.
The university is incorporating sustainability into everyday campus life in many ways. These include discounts for students who bring their own bowls to food outlets, no plastic straws and a mug wall so students can borrow a mug as well as committing to several Sydney-wide sustainability projects.
RMIT University scores particularly highly for SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure).
The university has a range of research projects and initiatives dedicated to working towards each SDG.
Initiatives include providing free breakfasts for RMIT students to tackle food poverty, financial education for students and incorporating modules on the SDGS within degree curricula.
Research initiatives being conducted by academic staff include sustainable farming methods and how to create liveable cities.
La Trobe University’s research covers a broad spectrum of areas such as building healthy communities, securing food, water and the environment, and transforming human societies.
The Future Ready strategy is designed to address a number of issues facing the world. Actions undertaken so far include retrofitting facilities to improve energy and water efficiency, launching a bike-sharing programme, generating its own electricity using rooftop solar photovoltaics and reducing paper waste.
Queen’s University enters the Impact Rankings for the first time this year and is the only Canadian university in the top 10.
It scores highly across SDGs including SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SGD 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).
Student-led environment projects on the Queens University campus include The Earth Centre, the Tea Room and a student-run service that provides free energy retrofits to student housing.
Sustainable Queen’s brings together all the campus working groups that aim to create a greener, more sustainable campus.
Impact Ranking 2021: Top 100