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Kvinna som går i vattenbrynet
Photo: Johan Wingborg

GU in global top 50 for sustainability


The University of Gothenburg has taken the 49th spot in the Times Higher Education (THE) ranking of the world’s universities based on alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This is four places lower than last year, but a record number of institutions took part this time: 1,115 compared with 766 in the previous ranking. 

“Coming in 49th place is a very strong result,” says analyst Magnus MacHale-Gunnarsson. “It’s great to see the THE producing a ranking of this kind, shining a spotlight on factors other than the quality of academic research. After all, universities have other purposes too.”

GU comes in 4th place under SDG 4 Quality Education, which Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg sees as an excellent result.

“For GU’s part, the ranking is very welcome since it has sustainable development as one of its focus areas. Fourth place in Quality Education is remarkable.”

Topping this year’s list is the University of Manchester, followed by three Australian universities: University of Sydney, RMIT and La Trobe University.

Three other Swedish higher education institutions took part in this year’s ranking:

  • KTH took 41th place, passing the University of Gothenburg for the first time. They also achieved two top-10 positions: 7th in SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) and 7th in SDG 13 (Climate Action).
  • Linnaeus University took part for the first time and came in around the 301–400 mark.
  • Karolinska Institutet, which only entered for SDG 3 “Good Health and Well-being”, took 53th place.
  • The aim of the THE University Impact Rankings is to give a picture of the social impact that the HEIs have by measuring how they align with the global Sustainable Development Goals.

However, Magnus MacHale-Gunnarsson cautions against drawing any firm conclusions from the results of the survey:

“The ranking is beset by major methodological problems and the results should therefore not be read as a factual measure of how well the universities are working towards the UN’s SDGs.”

Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg sees the ranking as an opportunity to highlight current initiatives.

“The ranking may not capture all the nuances, but it does provide a chance to showcase what we’re doing in this area, such as sustainability labelling of courses and programmes, and our work regarding the Climate Framework for universities that focuses on achieving the 1.5 degree target.”

Here are GU’s positions in the following areas:

  • SDG 4: Quality Education: 4th
  • SDG 13: Climate Action: 15th (up 15 places). 30th in 2019 and 37th in 2020
  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production: 18th (44th last year)
  • SDG 14 Life below Water: 16th (up from 45th last year)
  • SDG 3: Good Health: 32nd (up from 66th last year)
  • SDG 5: Gender Equality: 32nd (down from 14th last year)
  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: 31st (down from 19th last year)
  • SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals: 53rd (down from 33rd last year)

By: Allan Eriksson