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 universities 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 2023
Western Sydney University tops the ranking for the second year running.
The university scored particularly highly for SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).
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.
The University of Manchester moves up this year from number nine to take the second place.
The UK university has demonstrated its commitment to the SDGs through a range of research institutes and centres, including the Manchester Environmental Research Institute, the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research and the Sustainable Consumption Institute, among others.
On campus, the university has implemented the Living Campus plan, which aims to address the challenges of growing an urban campus while encouraging the local biodiversity. The Student Union has also set a target for the university to become plastic-free by 2025.
Queen’s University scored particularly highly for SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).
The university has created Sustainable Queen’s, a community that brings together university and local partners to tackle climate change and promote sustainability in Kingston.
There are a range of ways for students to get involved including student clubs, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth, and a range of academic programmes centred around sustainability and climate action.
Research institutes at the university are looking into a range of sustainable solutions in many areas including finance, water and energy.
Universiti Sains Malaysia is the only university in Asia to feature in the top 10 of the Impact Rankings.
It also scored highly 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.
The University of Tasmania is the second university from Australia to feature in the top five of the 2023 Impact Ranking.
It also takes first place for SDG 13 (climate action).
The university has been carbon neutral-certified since 2016. There is also a Sustainability Committee made up of senior leadership and student representatives at the university. The committee aims to identify and share actions that embed sustainability into university life.
There is also a range of green initiatives on campus such as the waste-minimisation action plan and the sustainable transport plan.