Sustainable Development Goals 2030
SDGs play an important role to society. Source: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP

In the last twelve months alone, bushfires ravaged Australia, walruses fell to gruesome deaths in Netflix documentaries and Greenland, of all places, suffered a record heatwave.

If you care about these and the environment as a whole, then the Times Higher Education’s latest university rankings should be your main guide when you’re choosing which university to go to next year.

The Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2020 spotlights 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.

 Sustainable Development Goals 2030

Actors stage a tug-of-war between the rich and the poor to depict the world’s struggle against inequality September 24, 2015 in New York. Reduced Inequalities is SDG 10. Source: Don Emmert/AFP

It assesses universities against the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030, which is a global call to action to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality.  

Their second edition includes 766 universities from 85 countries, with the University of Auckland coming in first, while three Australian universities complete the rest of the top four: University of Sydney, Western Sydney University and La Trobe University.

Read on about why university applicants should care about the Sustainable Development Goals 2030  and the universities making strides in this area:

It shows that universities are serious about addressing global challenges


Do SDGs matter? Source: Karen Ducey/Getty Images via AFP

Global challenges run the gamut, from hunger to the climate crisis to poverty and beyond.

Universities have the resources to address these global challenges, in addition to having social roles to play within society, and should thus be held accountable for upholding that value.

It has a long-lasting impact on students

Whether a university is dedicated to education, research in medicine and health sciences or in slowing down climate change, all these cumulative efforts can directly or indirectly benefit its students

For instance, part of the THE University Impact Rankings includes one on how universities are contributing to gender equality. 

This could include their research on gender, policies on gender equality, commitment to recruiting and promoting women, the proportion of first-generation female students and student access measures, said THE.

One such university that scored high in this area is Western Sydney University, which is dedicated to combating sexual violence on campus through the development of a respectful relationships education programme to be implemented across the Australian university sector. 

It helps the environment and its inhabitants


As inhabitants of this planet, sustainability is everyone’s problem. Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America/AFP

Prioritising universities that support the SDGs is also about ensuring the environment that we live in is protected, and that adequate steps are taken to ensure we understand it, paving the way for better protection of the Earth’s finite resources. 

Universities such as the University of British Columbia in Canada have been ranked first for its support for SDG 14 (Life Below Water) via its research and education on and support for aquatic ecosystems. The University of Leicester ranks first in SDG 15, which relates to life on land, measures universities’ research on life on land and their education on and support for land ecosystems.

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