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Required Reading: what do the Impact Rankings mean for students?

The Impact Rankings rank universities based on how they are contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

    Seeta Bhardwa's avatar

    Seeta Bhardwa

    Editor, THE Student
    June 11 2024
    Why are the University Impact Rankings important for students


    When attempting to measure the impact of something, it can be pretty tricky to find ways to define “impact”. Most people are aware that universities have an impact on students, staff, industry and the wider community. But how exactly do they do that?

    This is something Times Higher Education has decided to tackle with the Impact Rankings. Now in its sixth year, the rankings map how universities are making progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. In this way students are able to see which universities are putting their energy into combating gender inequality, tackling climate change, encouraging peaceful societies and putting measures in place to become more sustainable.

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    The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals were established in 2015 to tackle some of the biggest global challenges by 2030. The goals focus on a number of issues including improving gender equality, tackling poverty, providing better healthcare and quality education for all and encouraging economic growth.

    Top universities in the world for global impact
    Top universities for tackling gender equality
    Top universities for climate action
    Best universities for recycling and sustainability
    Best universities for reducing inequalities

    Universities submitted data on how they were contributing to achieving these goals. They had to provide evidence on how these goals were being incorporated into their governance, and how they were holding themselves accountable to make a real difference. 

    The Impact Rankings are particularly useful in helping students find a university that champions the causes that they care about. These rankings move away from recognising universities for research output and papers published, and instead shine a light on those implementing tangible ways to make a difference in the world and to their students. 

    It also promotes those institutions that may not have the resources to put out reams of research but are able to make small changes that make huge differences across campus. 

    As students it’s important to hold your institutions to account for the choices they make. The Impact Rankings represent a new way forward in ranking universities and it’s something students can really help to influence. No institution is perfect but by listening to their students and understanding the causes that they care about, universities can really make a difference and act in line with their students’ values.

    Moreover, there are many things you can do as students to contribute to your institutions’ mission to achieve these goals: set up student societies dedicated to some of the SDG issues, attend lectures by thought leaders in these fields, look at what your institution’s climate change plan involves and hold it to account, expect halls of residences to encourage recycling and waste minimisation, and more.

    It can be overwhelming to try making major changes to your lifestyle so start off small. Walk instead of drive, buy a reusable water bottle, don’t throw away food. Small changes can make a big difference.

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