Australasian universities dominate global social impact ranking

Two UAE institutions were included in the index - which looks at how they contribute to making the world better

King Abdulaziz University was the top-ranking institution in the GCC. Courtesy: King Abdulaziz University
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Australasian universities have dominated a global league table that ranks institutions based on their work on tackling issues such as climate change.

The Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings take into account the positive effect universities have on the social and economic wellbeing of the planet and humanity, rather than traditional metrics such as research prestige.

The University of Auckland, in New Zealand, came first in the index, followed by the University of Sydney, Western Sydney University and La Trobe University, which are all in Australia.

The rest of the top 10 was made up of universities in the United States, Italy, Canada, two in the UK and another in Australia. Half of the top 10 institutions were in Australasia.

In the GCC, King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia came highest, at 140th, while in the wider Middle East the Iran University of Medical Sciences scored top, coming 56th.

The two UAE institutions included in the rankings, Khalifa University and Gulf Medical College, came 487th and 649th respectively.

In total, 766 universities were ranked, with higher education institutions from 89 countries taking part.

“We believe that universities are our greatest hope of solving some of the world’s biggest challenges, and THE’s Impact Rankings bring this to light like never before," said Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer at THE.

“Unlike many traditional rankings, participation is just as important as overall position, with institutions actively demonstrating how seriously they take their role in achieving a sustainable world.

"The results reveal how many are putting this at the heart of their missions.”

The international table ranks universities according to how they contribute to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include tackling climate change, improving gender equality, combating poverty and protecting the environment.

Universities taking part in the index are invited to submit evidence on how they are contributing to each of the targets, with scores calculated based on a number of factors including the extent of their international collaboration.

Khalifa University scored highest for its work towards the UN goal of achieving fair working conditions and economic growth, while Gulf Medical College performed best in promoting good health and wellbeing.

While universities from the United States and the United Kingdom dominate traditional university rankings, those from less developed countries were able to achieve high rankings when their social impact was considered.

China’s Tongji University and the University of Sao Paolo were among those in the top 20, coming in 13th and 14th respectively.

“We’ve had a phenomenal response from institutions across the globe,” Mr Baty said.

“Universities from Afghanistan to Vietnam have taken part, and a number of top 100 spots are held by universities from countries and regions that have never appeared in the upper echelons of the traditional THE world rankings before, like Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico.

“These rankings prove that traditional barriers to success like wealth or research prestige don’t matter when it comes to doing great things for sustainability. It’s clear that universities give us a lot to be hopeful for.”

The Top 20

1. University of Auckland, New Zealand

2. University of Sydney, Australia

3. Western Sydney University, Australia

4. La Trobe University, Australia

5. Arizona State University (Tempe), United States

6. University of Bologna, Italy

7. University of British Columbia, Canada

8. University of Manchester, United Kingdom

9. King’s College London, United Kingdom

10. RMIT University, Australia

=11. University of Leeds, United Kingdom

=11. Newcastle University, United Kingdom

13. Tongji University, China

=14. University of São Paulo, Brazil

=14. Trinity College Dublin, Republic of Ireland

16. University of Waterloo, Canada

=17. McMaster University, Canada

=17. Monash University, Australia

19. Simon Fraser University, Canada

20. Aix-Marseille University, France