Top universities in the world for global impact

Explore the top 100 universities making a global impact in the new Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 

April 3 2019
Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings.

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. 


Top universities for tackling gender equality
Top universities for climate action


=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. 


University Impact Ranking 2019: Top 100 

University Impact Ranking 2019 University Country/region
1 University of Auckland New Zealand
2 McMaster University Canada
=3 University of British Columbia Canada
=3 University of Manchester United Kingdom
5 King’s College London United Kingdom
6 University of Gothenburg Sweden
=7 KTH Royal Institute of Technology Sweden
=7 University of Montreal Canada
9 University of Bologna Italy
10 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
11 Western Sydney University Australia
12 University of Southampton United Kingdom
=13 University of Waterloo Canada
=13 University of Wollongong Australia
15 University of Helsinki Finland
=16 Auckland University of Technology New Zealand
=16 University of Padua Italy
=16 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
19 Aalto University Finland
20 University of Dundee United Kingdom
21 University College Cork Republic of Ireland
22 University of South Australia Australia
23 Newcastle University United Kingdom
24 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
25 University of Sydney Australia
26 York University Canada
27 Kyung Hee University South Korea
28 Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
29 Pompeu Fabra University Spain
30 Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) South Korea
=31 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
=31 University of Toronto Canada
33 University of Worcester United Kingdom
34 Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain
=35 Arizona State University United States
=35 University of Limerick Republic of Ireland
37 University of Leicester United Kingdom
38 Massey University New Zealand
39 James Cook University Australia
40 Brunel University London United Kingdom
41 Iran University of Medical Sciences Iran
42 Edith Cowan University Australia
43 Aix-Marseille University France
44 Glasgow Caledonian University United Kingdom
45 Monash University Australia
=46 University of Queensland Australia
=46 Queensland University of Technology Australia
48 Kyoto University Japan
49 Universiti Sains Malaysia Malaysia
=50 De Montfort University United Kingdom
=50 University of Strathclyde United Kingdom
52 The University of Tokyo Japan
53 University of Bergen Norway
54 King Abdulaziz University Saudi Arabia
55 Bournemouth University United Kingdom
56 Andrés Bello University (UNAB) Chile
57 Keele University United Kingdom
=58 Altai State University Russian Federation
=58 University College Dublin Republic of Ireland
=60 University of Hamburg Germany
=60 Hong Kong Baptist University Hong Kong
62 University of Maryland, Baltimore County United States
63 Macquarie University Australia
64 Metropolitan Autonomous University Mexico
65 University of Amsterdam Netherlands
66 Laval University Canada
67 Tzu Chi University Taiwan
68 Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Chile
69 University of Ottawa Canada
=70 National Taiwan University Taiwan
=70 University of Texas at Arlington United States
72 Özyeğin University Turkey
=73 Ohio State University United States
=73 University of South Florida United States
75 University of Eastern Finland Finland
=76 Comenius University in Bratislava Slovakia
=76 University of Winchester United Kingdom
=78 University of L’Aquila Italy
=78 Stony Brook University United States
=80 University of Indonesia Indonesia
=80 National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) Taiwan
82 RMIT University Australia
83 University of Minho Portugal
84 Kuwait University Kuwait
85 Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University Russian Federation
86 Comillas Pontifical University Spain
87 Hacettepe University Turkey
=88 University of Georgia United States
=88 SOAS University London United Kingdom
90 Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education Mexico
91 Keio University Japan
=92 Koç University Turkey
=92 University of Latvia Latvia
=94 Universitat de Girona Spain
=94 University of Talca Chile
96 University of Tasmania Australia
97 Aalborg University Denmark
98 Dublin City University Republic of Ireland
99 Alexandria University Egypt
100 University of Surrey United Kingdom

View the full University Impact Ranking here 

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