22 Apr.
2021

Manchester named world’s best university for action on sustainable development

The University of Manchester has been named the world's number one university in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, released today (Wednesday, 21 April).

The University topped the table of more than 1,200 universities from around the world on action taken towards the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN's 17 SDGs are the world's call to action on the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing humanity and the natural world.

With a record number of universities from 98 countries taking part in this year’s rankings, Manchester topped the overall table as well as achieving first place for its work towards the SDGs of Sustainable Cities and Communities and Responsible Consumption and Production as well as a second place for work in relation to Life Below Water. The University’s research work in these specific SDGs includes mobilising urban living labs to create sustainable infrastructure; setting the standard for cleaner skies; and removing harmful pollutants from industrial wastewater with innovative technology.  

But it isn’t just the University’s research in these areas that helped it top the rankings. As the UK’s only university to have social responsibility as a core goal, Manchester plays a leading role in tackling the SDGs in four ways: research impact, learning and students, public engagement activity and responsible campus operations. These are realised in the pioneering civic engagement work of our cultural institutions, how students are engaged with the SDGs, our commitment to a zero-carbon future, paying staff a living wage, and the quality of reporting of progress on each of the 17 SDGs. 

President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell said: “We’re absolutely delighted to top the world in the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings in 2021, but more importantly we’re pleased to be part of a growing community of universities committed to measuring and sharing their societal impact. 

“We’ve taken part in the University Impact Rankings since their inception because we value the feedback they provide about our performance on each of the global goals. They cover every aspect of a university’s impact: our research, our teaching and learning, our engagement with the public and how we operate as sizeable organisations in our cities and regions.” 

UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr Winnie Byanyima – who is also an alumna of the University and honorary doctorate recipient – said: “I will always be proud to be part of The University of Manchester family and its alumni community. 

“This deserved recognition for its enormous social, environmental and economic impact is even more reason for everyone associated with the institution to be immensely pleased. I offer them my sincerest congratulations.” 

Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer, Times Higher Education, said: “It is wonderful to see from this unique Times Higher Education data analysis that UK universities are making a major impact to global society across a whole range of individual Sustainable Development Goals.  

“In a year that has seen record levels of participation in the impact rankings, with 1,240 universities from 98 countries and regions included across the 18 ranking tables, and the clear strength of institutions in every corner of the world when it comes to helping achieve these shared goals, the success of The University of Manchester and many British peers is testament to the vital role universities across the home nations are playing in helping to ensure a sustainable future.” 

For more information visit The University of Manchester SDG webpages  

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