Exeter ranks 48th in the World in the New QS Sustainability Ranking
The University of Exeter has officially been ranked 48th in the world in the new QS Sustainability Ranking 2023, which recognises universities across the globe that are taking action to tackle the world’s greatest Environmental, Social and Governance challenges.
Out of seven hundred universities this year, the University of California, Berkeley has been ranked as the world’s most sustainable university, contributing to 50% of the overall score. The University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia follow in second and third place. The University of Edinburgh was the only UK university in the top ten, ranked in fourth place.
This year, QS (Quacquarelli Symons) has split the rankings into two categories: Environmental Sustainability which includes institutions, education, and research; and Social Impact measures, which include equality, knowledge exchange, educational impact, employability and opportunities, and quality of life. The ranking is focused more on research impact and alumni outcomes (the number of graduates in sustainable careers) than on-campus measures like renewable energy sources and recycling initiatives.
A 2019 report by QS found that 94% of international students thought that universities should be doing more for environmental sustainability. This new ranking aims to assist students on the sustainability of an institution, like Exeter, when they research where to study. This is important for Gen Z as Forbes called them the “sustainability generation” (2021).
To be included in the QS world ranking, the University of Exeter, as an institution, had to follow two criteria. They had to create a strategy on how to mitigate their impact on the climate crisis. They also had to provide evidence of SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) research by demonstrating a non-zero score in ‘Research Impact into SDGs for Sustainable Research’, and at least two out of four SDG research metrics in the Social Impact categorial.
In 2015, the UN General Assembly established 17 SDGs designed to pave the path to a more sustainable future, stating that they are “addressing the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.” They inform Times Higher Education’s Impact Rankings of benchmarks that institutions must contribute to the SDGs.
SGDs are “addressing the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.UN General Assembly
The University of Exeter has achieved this by securing joint 40th position for Sustainable Research following its publication of research paper from 2016 to 2021, relating to topics including life on land, quality of education and water sanitation. Over 1,000 research and education specialists are working on these at the university, including five of the UK’s most influential climate scientists. According to Reuters, the University of Exeter is home to more of the world’s top 100 climate scientists than anywhere else in the world.
The University has also established its “Strategy 2030” vision, intended to lead meaningful action against the climate emergency and ecological crisis. In 2019, the University declared a Climate Emergency and has created a programme to deliver carbon net zero and environmental net gain.
In 2018, Jardali et al. wrote that “Universities are uniquely placed to lead the cross-sectoral implementation of the SDGs and advance the 2030 agenda.” This new ranking should inspire universities to pursue this goal. Exeter is certainly achieving this and will look towards improving its position on the ranking next year.