In April’s Rankings Watch we look at the newly released impact rankings…

Beyond the pandemic, THE launched their latest Impact Rankings, aimed at measuring how universities are responding to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, with four W100 members featuring in the top 10.

The new ranking, published for the 2nd year, with more than 700 institutions taking part,  assesses universities’ performance in research, outreach and stewardship against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). University of Sydney’s Duncan Ivison described the increased focus on SDGs as promoting  ‘a culture of co-design and collaboration between governments, industry, universities and civil society in tackling these challenges’.

World 100 Members leading the way

The University of Sydney was ranked 2nd overall by THE. Elsewhere in the top 10, UBC was 8th, closely followed by University of Manchester in 9th and King’s College London in 10th.


5 more World 100 universities made the top 25, with the University of Leeds and Newcastle University from the UK in joint 11th, Trinity College Dublin in 14th, McMaster University in 17th and Aalborg University coming in 23th.

The Impact Rankings covered the full range of 17 SDGs for the first time, and many universities were able to demonstrate impact in individual areas. RCSI in Dublin was the leading global university in SDG 3, Good Health, and Well-being.

Aalborg achieved the top spot in SDG 4 (Quality Education). The University of Toronto led the way globally in SDG 9 (Industry Innovations), UNSW Sydney was top for SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and UBC achieved 2 first place rankings in SDGs 13 (Climate Action) and 14 (Life below Water).

In total W100 members achieved 42 top 10 ranking positions in individual SDGs with 40% of all member universities featuring.

Impact and Reputation

This performance supports the view that universities focused on global reputation see research impact as a critical part of the story. This focus was reflected in the W100 Annual Conference last year in Manchester, themed around universities engaging with society.

Whilst the THE Impact Rankings do not attempt to measure university reputation specifically, it is clear that many universities are using their performance in the latest league tables to enhance their profiles.

Several W100 members produced high-quality materials reflecting on their performance including Sydney, UBC , RCSI, and Manchester.

Many institutions are also highlighting their rankings success across a range of communications channels, although naturally the messaging currently has to compete with Covid-19 news and information.

That reflects a wider challenge for the sector in terms of exploiting the focus on Impact and the UN SDGs. With the consequences of the pandemic likely to be severe and long-lasting, will global universities be able to exploit their wider messages around impact, beyond the specific contributions to fighting COVID-19?