University Of New South Wales: UNSW jumps 41 places in 2022 global impact rankings

UNSW Sydney ranked 55th in the world out of 1406 institutions in the 2022 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, up from 96th in 2021. The University secured 10 top 100 and eight top 50 places.

Now in their fourth year, the Impact Rankings are the first global attempt to measure university progress around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all United Nations states. 

The 17 goals encompass strategies to improve health and education, improve inequality, and spur economic growth, while tackling climate change and preserving our natural environment.

The Impact Rankings are gaining momentum across the higher education sector with a 26 per cent increase in participating universities in the past year.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Attila Brungs said “UNSW’s remarkable performance in the THE Impact Rankings 2022 is testament to the passion of our students, staff and university partners, who strive to have a positive impact on the world around us”.

“This result – our University’s best to date – is even more significant in the context of the increasing number of institutions participating in the Impact Rankings each year, and validation of the UNSW community’s deeply-held desire to tackle real world problems. It is heartening to see so many universities reporting their progress towards the SDGs and UNSW is proud to be part of this movement alongside our global counterparts.”

UNSW performance
UNSW’s three strongest areas under the rankings methodology, consistent with 2021, are: 

SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation (17) 
SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities (=42) 
SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production (=35)
The University’s highest ranking of 17 was achieved in SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation and SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy.

UNSW’s ranking in SDG 6 reflects UNSW’s contributions to clean water and sanitation through campus operations, research and outreach. It is also strengthened through participation in a number of key initiatives such as the Australian Water Partnership (AWP), the Connected Waters Initiative (CWI), and a range of ongoing, long-term collaborations with local and global government and industry partners. 

UNSW’s other top 100 performances include:

SDG 2 Zero Hunger (=46)
SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy (=17)  
SDG 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (87)
SDG 13 Climate Action (39)
SDG 14 Life Below Water (29) 
SDG 15 Life on Land (=73) 
UNSW’s meteoric rise from =59 to 17 in SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy was impacted by the university’s pioneering research in the development of solar photovoltaic technology, enabling the University to switch to 100 per cent solar energy in 2020 under a world first Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

In addition, innovative technologies developed at the UNSW SMaRT Centre, and the community-based initiatives UNSW is leading through the new national Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub also contributed to UNSW’s high ranking in this area.

Professor Veena Sahajwalla, UNSW SMaRT Centre Director and Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub Leader said: “Recovering essential materials from waste through recycling has a vital role to play in helping us move towards renewable energies and decarbonisation.

“Many of the commodities needed to achieve this are finite resources yet the world is landfilling waste containing many of these valuable resources. We need to rapidly advance our recycling capability so that waste itself can, and should, be seen as a resource if we want to electrify the world and be more sustainable.”

The University’s highest score was mandatory SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals (95.4/100), securing the rank of =30, up from 101-200 last year.

Vinita Chanan, UNSW Director of Alliances said: “UNSW’s strategic focus on working in partnership locally and globally, including developing key strategic alliances with our University, community and industry partners to deliver societal impact has played a key role in our rankings improvement.  We will continue to do this as working in partnership benefits everyone.”

In 2020, UNSW set up the International Universities Climate Alliance, now comprising 56 universities worldwide, to highlight the important climate change research that members undertake and create opportunities for students and staff to work in partnership on climate impacts and action.

How the ranking is calculated
Universities receive a score and ranking for each submitted SDG. The score for each SDG considers a range of indicators, including a university’s research performance, campus management and operations, and community partnerships and collaborations. 

The overall rank is then generated from the score for mandatory SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals, plus the three strongest of the other SDGs for which it provided data. 

According to the THE methodology, the score from each SDG is scaled so that the highest score in each SDG in the overall calculation is 100 and the lowest score is 0. This is to adjust for minor differences in the scoring range in each SDG and to ensure that universities are treated equitably, whichever SDGs they have provided data for.

It is these scaled scores that THE use to determine which SDGs a university has performed most strongly in; they may not be the SDGs in which the university is ranked highest or has scored highest based on unscaled scores.