Sixteen Arab universities across nine countries are included in the inaugural QS World University Rankings for Sustainability.
The brand-new classification, published today by QS Quacquarelli Symonds, evaluates how universities are taking action to tackle the world’s most pressing environmental and social issues. Out of 1,300 higher-education institutions previously evaluated by QS, 700 met specific eligibility requirementsto appear in this ranking.
The new classification for sustainability is based on metrics in two categories, environmental impact and social impact, with each contributing 50 percent of an institution’s score.
Each category contains multiple sub-indicators, which QS calls “performance lenses”. The environmental impact category aggregates three sub-indicators: sustainable institutions, sustainable education and sustainable research.
The social impact category aggregates five sub-indicators: equality, knowledge exchange, impact of education, employability and opportunities, and quality of life. For more on the performance lenses and their weight in institutions’ total scores, see QS’s methodology description.
Universities Making a Difference
The new rankings give universities and students a tool for monitoring institutions’ commitment to and progress toward making a difference on sustainability issues, QS officials said.
“Universities are uniquely placed to lead global efforts in enacting environmental and social change, whether through research, teaching, or community engagement,” Jessica Turner, chief executive at QS, said in a news release accompanying the launch of the QS World University Rankings: Sustainability.
“QS aims to provide prospective students with independent insights on universities’ record in improving sustainability,” Turner said.
She mentioned the development of Covid-19 vaccines as just one recent example of the impact achieved by universities cooperating to solve a global crisis.
She added that QS also seeks to support universities in monitoring and benchmarking their progress as they strive to implement their Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) strategies and find solutions to unprecedented global challenges.
“Universities are uniquely placed to lead global efforts in enacting environmental and social change, whether through research, teaching, or community engagement. QS aims to provide prospective students with independent insights on universities’ record in improving sustainability.”Jessica Turner, chief executive of QS Quacquarelli Symonds
Andrew MacFarlane, QS’s manager for rankings, underlined the importance of that goal.
He said: “By highlighting the impact of universities’ alumni, the alignment of their research to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, or their policies and governance, we hope this ranking will serve to further intensify the efforts of universities to help meet the global challenges we all face.”
American Institutions Lead
Overall, the United States dominates the rankings, with 135 ranked universities (19.2 percent of the total), including 30 among the top 100. The United Kingdom is the second-most represented country, with 67 universities ranked (9.5%), including 20 among the top 100. Germany is the third-best for overall representation, with 39 universities.
The University of California, Berkeley was named the global leader, achieving top scores in both the environmental impact and social impact categories. It was followed by two Canadian institutions, the University of Toronto in second place and the University of British Columbia third.
The top 10 universities also included the University of Edinburgh in fourth place, Australia’s University of New South Wales and University of Sydney sharing fifth place, Japan’s University of Tokyo (7th), the United States’ University of Pennsylvania (8th), Yale University (9th), and New Zealand’s University of Auckland (10th).
In the next 10 places were Sweden’s Uppsala University and Lund University (11th and 12th respectively), Scotland’s University of Glasgow (13th), the University of California, Davis (14th), Denmark’s Aarhus University (15th), the University of Oxford (16th), Canada’s Western University (17th), the U.K.’s Newcastle University (18th), the University of Cambridge (19th), and Harvard University (20th).
Leading British Universities
Four British universities were among the world’s top 10 for social impact: the University of Edinburgh (third in this category), the University of Oxford (4th), the University of Cambridge (6th), and the University College London (9th).
The University of Edinburgh was the only British institution among the world’s top 10 in the environmental impact category, while the University of Oxford and Newcastle University placed in the top 20.
The top five performers in the employability and opportunities sub-category were all British universities, led by the University of Cambridge. Oxford, Imperial College London, University College London and the London School of Economics and Political Science filled the other top slots on this metric, which seeks to measure graduates’ job-market resilience and how well-connected universities are to employers.
16 Arab Universities Ranked
With the rapid approach of the COP27 climate-change conference, to be held next month in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Arab universities’ efforts on environmental and sustainable development issues have been in the spotlight.
Only one university in the Arab world, however, the American University of Beirut, was in the top 150 in the new QS sustainability rankings, placing 140th.
AUB was among the top 20 performers on one sub-indicator, sustainable education, which attempts to gauge how institutions are educating students to understand and make a difference to the environment. It scored 82.5 out of 100 on this performance lens, ranking 19th globally.
Its next highest score was 73.6 on the knowledge transfer sub-indicator (185th globally), which assesses how institutions partner in research and with industry to share knowledge and spur educational growth.
Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University made it to the list’s top 200, placing in a group of universities ranked 191–200. On the sub-indicators, its highest score was 75.2 for knowledge transfer (170th).
“By highlighting the impact of universities’ alumni, the alignment of their research to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, or their policies and governance, we hope this ranking will serve to further intensify the efforts of universities to help meet the global challenges we all face.”Andrew MacFarlane, QS’s manager for rankings
The top-300 list included three Arab universities: Egypt’s Cairo University, which ranked in the 201–220 band, and the United Arab Emirates’ Khalifa University of Science and Technology and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz University, both in the 281–300 group.
Three other Arab-world universities were among the top 500: Qatar University (401–450), the University of Jordan (401–450), and Saudi Arabia’s Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University (451–500).
In the next tier, the U.A.E.’s University of Sharjah was in the group 501–550, and the Jordan University of Science and Technology, Egypt’s Mansoura University, the United Arab Emirates University, and Tunisia’s University of Tunis-El Manar all ranked 551–600.
In the last group (ranked 601+) were Egypt’s Ain Shams University, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University, and Morocco’s University of Mohammed V in Rabat.
Three South African universities made it to the top-200 list: the University of Cape Town, in 132nd place, and the University of Johannesburg and the University of Pretoria, both ranked 171–180.
Three other South African universities were in the top 300. They were the University of Witwatersrand, in the 201–220 group; Stellenbosch University (241–260), and North-West University (281–300).
Other South African institutions ranked included the University of Kwazulu-Natal (321–340), and Rhodes University and the University of the Western Cape, both in the 601+ group.
Elsewhere in Africa, Uganda’s Makerere University ranked 551–600, and the University of Ghana ranked 600+.
Other Top Regional Universities
Besides the four Asian-Pacific universities that made it to the top-10 list—namely the University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney, the University of Tokyo and the University of Auckland—the other top universities in the region were the University of Hong Kong (34th), and Australia’s University of Adelaide (36th).
Four Latin American universities made it to the top-200 list: Brazil’s University of Sao Paolo (34th), Mexico’s Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (78th), the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (118th), and Brazil’s State University of Campinas (151–160).
Another Brazilian institution, São Paulo State University, was in the band ranked 221–240.
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- The Arab World Lags Behind in the ‘Green’ Universities Movement
- The Road to COP27: African Youth Join Calls for Protecting the Earth
To read more about sustainable development challenges in the Arab world and the COP27 climate-change conference, see Climate and Environment, an archive of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on these issues.