Top 10 sustainable universities in the UK

Lauryn Berry·22 April 2021·5 min read
Top 10 sustainable universities in the UK

The Times Higher Education’s impact ratings for 2021 have been released, with the University of Manchester taking the top spot as the most sustainable university in the world - the first time a UK university has ever claimed this title.

The impact ratings evaluate universities under a series of indicators, all which comply with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals include: elimination of poverty and hunger; general health and wellbeing; gender equality; quality of education; clean energy; responsible consumption and production and peace, among others.

If you’re a prospective student who cares about sustainability, or a current student curious about your university, here are the ten most sustainable universities in the UK.

  1. University of Manchester - With the highest overall rating out of the 1115 participating universities, this university achieved an overall score of 98.8. It scored highest in the Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure SDG, and lowest with the Sustainable cities and communities goal. Overall, the university seems to have made a positive impact, and sets the bar high for other UK universities.
  2. King’s College London - The second most sustainable university in the UK takes the 11th spot worldwide. Their strongest SDG is Partnership for the goals, while the weakest is Peace, justice and strong institutions. This university is still very high up on the list of sustainable universities. Overall score: 95.5.
  3. Newcastle University - Coming in 15th place worldwide, Newcastle’s SDG strength is their Industry, innovation and infrastructure, while their weakness is Sustainable cities and communities. Overall score: 94.8.
  4. University of Leeds - Leeds follows Newcastle directly, occupying position number 16 on the overall list. They achieved a high score for Partnership for the goals, and a lower one for No poverty. Overall score: 94.7.
  5. University of Leicester - In position 19 overall, this university’s SDG strength is also Partnership for goals, while their weakness is Reducing inequalities. Overall score: 93.8.
  6. University of Plymouth - Still high on the worldwide list, at number 23, this University excels at Life below water, and is weakest at Zero hunger. Overall score: 92.4.
  7. University of Strathclyde - This university is positioned slightly lower down at position 32, but it still scores very well on the overall list. Its strength lies with Industry, innovation and infrastructure, while it is weaker at Peace, justice and strong institutions. Overall score: 91.7.
  8. University of Edinburgh - Just slightly lower down at number 36, Edinburgh is strongest at Industry, innovation and infrastructure, and weaker at Peace, justice and strong institutions, much like Stratchlyde. Overall score: 91.1
  9. University of Sussex - On the worldwide ranking, this university is placed 41, with its strongest SDG being Partnership for the goals and weakest Peace, justice and strong institutions. Overall score: 90.3
  10. Queen’s University Belfast - Finally, coming in just below Sussex at number 43, this university’s sustainable strong suit is Life below water, while it’s weaker at Sustainable cities and communities. Overall score: 90.2.

It is important to note that although each of these universities have stronger SDGs and weaker ones, they have all ranked high up on the list - within the top 50 worldwide, and with scores above 90.0. This demonstrates that the UK is making a difference, not only for the environment but for present and future communities.

So why are impact rankings like these important? Well, not only do they celebrate universities’ good efforts and sustainable actions, but they also hold institutions accountable. The accessibility to this sort of information is essential for students, professionals, and universities’ management, as it provides a clear insight into each institution’s strengths and weaknesses, what they should celebrate and preserve, and the areas they still need to work harder on.