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Highly ranked even with increased competition in global sustainability ranking


 The University of Gothenburg landed at the 45th spot in this year’s Times Higher Education ranking of the world’s universities based on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The university is also highly ranked in several subcategories. For example, it placed 14th for Goal 5 on gender equality. The ranking looks at 800 universities in 85 countries based on indicators defined around the 17 global goals in Agenda 2030.

The Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings is a sustainability ranking of universities aimed at measuring their impact on society and how they contribute to the global goals for sustainable development. The ranking’s methodology is based on the UN’s 17 global goals in Agenda 2030. The indicators look at publications and citations within relevant research, quantitative measurements of the universities’ staff and students, and qualitative measurements of how the universities work to achieve the goals. This is the second consecutive year for the ranking, though this year the number of participating institutions increased significantly. Last year, the University of Gothenburg was ranked sixth, while this year it is ranked 45th.

“This is a strong showing, particularly in some of the subcategories, for us considering that so many more universities participated this year. Rankings, their methodologies and their indicators can always be debated. This global sustainability ranking, however, is important to track since we prioritise these issues. It gives us an additional opportunity to talk about what we are doing in the area,” says Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor at University of Gothenburg.

The University of Gothenburg has a long history of environmental research and a well-established environmental management system. In recent years, the university has expanded its approach to include every aspect of sustainable development. In its new vision, the university has also committed to contributing to a sustainable world and to the 17 global goals in Agenda 2030. The university has been environmentally certificated since 2004, and the results of the ranking confirm that the environmental management system works well, that environmental and sustainable development are a part of our core activities and that follow-up efforts are satisfactory.

“Of course, it is a pity that the university has a lower ranking than last year, but it is gratifying that our work promoting sustainable development continues to be so highly ranked internationally. It is important that we see the ranking as an opportunity to develop and improve our work for sustainable development and to learn from the universities at the forefront. I hope that we can now double down on our systematic and diligent sustainability efforts within research, education, international collaboration and development of our campus environments,” says Eddi Omrcen, sustainability strategist at the University of Gothenburg.

According to Magnus MacHale-Gunnarsson, the university’s analyst and expert on rankings, THE’s sustainability ranking has significant methodological problems and the results should be interpreted with care. At the same time, he is positive about THE even trying to rank sustainability efforts and to highlighting other aspects of university operations than what are measured in the more established rankings.

Facts about THE Impact Ranking 

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings was first published in April 2019, when just over 400 universities participated and the University of Gothenburg was ranked sixth internationally. In 2020’s edition of the rankings, 859 universities submitted data and 766 were ranked. This year, the University of Gothenburg is ranked 45th. While several leading universities do not participate, KTH and the University of Gothenburg are among the participating Swedish universities. Aalborg University is the highest ranked Nordic university at 22nd.

The University of Gothenburg’s rankings in subcategories by goal

  • Gender Equality (SDG 5): position 14
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8): position 19
  • Quality Education (SDG 4): position 30
  • Partnership for the Goals (SDG 17): position 33
  • Climate Action (SDG 13): position 37
  • Responsible Consumption & Production (SDG 12): position 44
  • Life Below Water (SDG 14): position 45
  • Good Health and Wellbeing (SDG 3): position 66

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