Times Higher Education Impact rankings 2021: Manchester University first for sustainability as Middle East fares well

Global ranking assesses universities on their contributions to UN sustainability goals

A British university was named the world's most committed to sustainability, according to a global ranking of higher education institutions.

The University of Manchester was deemed overall winner in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings for 2021, scoring highly in areas of urban sustainability, responsible consumption and ocean conservation.

The report ranked 1,240 universities from 98 countries on their commitment to each of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in addition to an overall table.

Western countries dominated the top 10, with 24 countries and regions from six continents appearing in the overall top 100.

Institutions in the Middle East performed well, with 31 universities from 11 Arab League territories in the top 100 positions, demonstrating the high level of commitment to achieving the sustainability goals.

Saudi Arabia’s Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University came top for gender equality goals while King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah claimed third place for reduced inequalities.


In total, 17 universities from 10 countries claimed a top position across the 18 rankings, including Mexico, Thailand and South Africa.

About 405 institutions entered the rankings for the first time, with Canada’s Queen’s University achieving fifth place overall and topping the ranking for no poverty.

UK institutions claimed more top spots across the 18 rankings than any other country or region, with five first-place finishes.

While the University of Manchester claimed three of these (overall table, SDG11 and SDG12), the University of Plymouth is best in the world for action on life below water.

Top ranked Arab League universities

Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer for THE, said: “It is wonderful to see from this unique Times Higher Education data analysis that UK universities are making a major impact to global society across a whole range of individual sustainable development goals."

In a year with "record levels of participation in the impact rankings, with 1,240 universities from 98 countries and regions included across the 18 ranking tables, and the clear strength of institutions in every corner of the world when it comes to helping achieve these shared goals, the success of the University of Manchester and many British peers is testament to the vital role universities across the home nations are playing in helping to ensure a sustainable future”.

Dame Nancy Rothwell, vice chancellor at the University of Manchester, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to top the world in the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings in 2021, but more importantly, we’re pleased to be part of a growing community of universities committed to measuring and sharing their societal impact."

The UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

1 No Poverty

2 Zero Hunger

3 Good Health and Well-being

4 Quality Education

5 Gender Equality

6 Clean Water and Sanitation

7 Affordable and Clean Energy

8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

10 Reduced Inequality

11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

12 Responsible Consumption and Production

13 Climate Action

14 Life Below Water

15 Life on Land

16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

17 Partnerships to Achieve the Goal

Updated: April 21, 2021 04:39 PM


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