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 of 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 2022
Western Sydney University tops the ranking for the first time.
The university scored particularly highly for SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).
The university has prioritised research in areas relating to SDG 4 (quality education), SDGs 13,14 and 15 (relating to environment and sustainability), SDG 3 (good health and well-being) and SDGs 11 and 12 (sustainable cities and communities, and responsible consumption and production).
A series of key initiatives have also been introduced on campus to increase its sustainability, including implementing a pilot solar-powered car park on the Kingswood Campus, offsetting the carbon footprint of international travel and installing more electric-vehicle charging stations on campus.
Arizona State University Tempe climbs seven places this year to take the second position in the 2022 Impact Rankings. It is the only university in the US to feature in the overall top 10.
The university also ranked number one for SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 14 (life below water), SDG 15 (life on land) and also scored well in SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).
There are a range of student clubs at the university that encourage students to think about sustainability and climate action including United Nations Association at ASU and Honors Society for Sustainability.
Western University also took the number one position for SDG 1 (no poverty) and scored highly for SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land).
The university’s 2020-2021 sustainability report outlines all of the key activities, research and student initiatives the university has undertaken in the past year towards the goals.
This includes the student Empower Club which works to remove barriers for underprivileged women in the local community such as single mothers, women who have experienced abuse and women who have experienced homelessness.
The university has also introduced a range of courses for students focusing on sustainability, such as the climate change and society major and a course in environmental science and sustainability.
King Abdulaziz University performed particularly well for SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities).
The university has a range of research centres conducting research into areas relating to the SDGs including Centre of Excellence in Environmental Studies, the Centre of Excellence for Climate Change Research and the Water Research Centre.
Universiti Sains Malaysia is the only university in Asia to feature in the top five of the Impact Rankings and one of two Asian universities to feature in the top 10.
It also came number one in SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and joint first for SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).
The university has introduced a range of sustainable initiatives on campus including an undergraduate minor in sustainability and a postgraduate research programme as part of the Centre for Global Sustainability Studies.