How we placed 11th in the world for sustainability, and what we can do next

The U of A’s rise through the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings gives us reason to celebrate and plan for an even bigger leap towards sustainability.


In just one year, the University of Alberta has jumped from 64th to 11th place in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. The Impact Rankings measure the contribution that post secondary institutions are making towards achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This high ranking shows the global community that the U of A is a world leader in contributing to a more just, safe and environmentally sustainable world.

This was the fourth year that Times Higher Education has rated universities on the collective contribution of their research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship towards the SDGs, and the second time that the U of A submitted to the Impact Rankings. The SDGs are collective ambitions agreed upon by the nations of the world as priorities for global progress. The SDGs gauge whether people are getting enough food and have good healthcare, whether we are protecting Earth’s natural environment, whether the cities we build are made to last, and much more. We can be proud that the university has been recognized for its achievements in these areas.

What changed over one year? Primarily, we improved how we track SDG-related work happening at the university. 2021’s application was a learning process. This year, with more time, and a team from the University of Alberta International, the Sustainability Council and Energy Management and Sustainable Operations, we captured a more detailed picture of the university’s many efforts to awaken student interest in sustainability issues, cultivate sustainability-focused research and make campus operations more environmentally friendly. Many of the hundreds of projects and programs included in our submission have been highlighted in stories on our new SDG dashboard.

We are pleased that our strong placement in the Impact Rankings recognizes that contribution and draws attention to the U of A being a great place to come to if you want to have an impact on these big issues. Potential students and researchers can come here with the confidence that they are joining a leading institution.

We also believe that now is a good time to envision other ways that the university can incorporate the SDGs. The Sustainability Council's recently-launched SUST (sustainability) courses are a great example of how we are building programming that addresses the SDGs, as is University of Alberta International’s Global Education Program. The program engages students, faculty and communities near and far to learn and debate about global issues and the SDGs, and encourages participation to contribute to these goals.

We are constantly pursuing opportunities to develop programming that integrates our research and teaching across the institution for the public good. Our departments, faculties and even the university itself could consider making the SDGs central to strategic planning and take on more collective actions towards achiving SDGs.

The U of A has a long-standing tradition of supporting the public good, both locally and internationally. Furthering our commitment to the SDGs, which are included in the university’s institutional and international strategies, and making them a guiding principle for the university’s future, can only improve our capacity to create positive changes in Alberta, Canada and the world.

About Robert

Robert Summers is the Academic Director of Sustainability of the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Science Sustainability Council.

The Sustainability Council is building a community of university students, faculty and staff who are dedicated to promoting sustainability on and off campus. It runs the Certificate in Sustainability, Adaptation Resilience Training and Sustainability Scholars programs, and it fosters academic collaboration and networking through its Affiliate Network, Lecture Series and Campus Sustainability Leaders Awards.

About Cen

Cen Huang is Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President (International), University of Alberta International.

The University of Alberta International is deeply engaged in international initiatives that contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, and its work is uniquely focused on facilitating the global reach of the University to have positive impacts around the world by connecting international partners and stakeholders with our campuses here in Alberta.