Introducing the QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2023 | Top Universities

Introducing the QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2023

By Craig OCallaghan

Updated October 26, 2022 Updated October 26, 2022

The first-ever QS World University Rankings: Sustainability compares 700 of the world’s top universities against a range of environmental and social sustainability metrics, to see which institutions are doing the most to tackle the world’s greatest environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges.

The ranking is designed to reflect performance across both these two aspects – environmental and social – with a clear focus on outward impact. This means the ranking will focus much more on research impact and alumni outcomes (are graduates going on to work in sustainable careers?) than on-campus measures like renewable energy sources and recycling initiatives. 

How do you measure a university’s sustainability? 

To be eligible for this year’s ranking, an institution had to also be eligible for inclusion in our overall QS World University Rankings. Every university that’s included also had to meet a minimum level of research connected to sustainability and have a clear, published strategy on climate action. 

The most successful universities in this ranking are those which are able to demonstrate sustainability outwardly. National-level data has also been included, covering aspects such as safety and tolerance, clean air and water, and tolerance and freedom. This is because we know that students want to know the location they choose to study in – as well as their university – is working towards a sustainable future. 

Why is it important to measure sustainability? 

Dr Jingwen Mu is Strategic Planning Manager at the University of Auckland and has devoted her career to progressing sustainability within institutions. When asked about the importance of rankings which measure sustainability, Dr Mu said: “The simple answer, if you allow me to quote Peter Drucker, would be ‘What gets measured gets managed’.   

“A good performance framework to measure the environmental and social impact of institutions serves as a benchmarking and feedback mechanism to help universities understand their relative position and progress towards sustainability.  

“While no league table is perfect, I do appreciate and welcome the attempt of QS to measure this via this new sustainability ranking. It does provide one more external perspective for us to understand how we are positioned compared with like-minded universities that are also striving for sustainability leadership.” 

How can students tell if their university is sustainable? 

As well as using our ranking, students interested in sustainability should be prepared to ask prospective universities about things like their sustainable research and commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Jane, a business student at Nottingham Trent University believes that a key factor is the extent to which sustainability features in the curriculum. She said: “On my course, sustainability is everywhere. This year NTU introduced a new module called Sustainability in Enterprise and I had the opportunity to work with small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nottingham to audit their carbon footprints and help to provide solutions for reducing their environmental impact.  

“My current career aspiration is to become a carbon consultant. There are new jobs out there now that nobody would have thought about five years ago and being able to adapt to things like sustainability only puts you in a good position for your future.”  

This article was originally published in October 2022 .

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