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THE's Phil Baty Calls Universities 'Our Greatest Hope' for Addressing Some of the Major Global Issues

April 22, 2020

  A total of 47 Russian universities feature in this year's overall Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact rankings, three of them in the top 100.

 The rankings assess universities against a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon at a UN summit in September 2015. They are: SDG 1 – no poverty; SDG 2 – zero hunger; SDG 3 – good health and well-being; SDG 4 – quality education; SDG 5 – gender equality; SDG 6 – clean water and sanitation; SDG 7 – affordable and clean energy; SDG 8 – decent work and economic growth; SDG 9 – industry, innovation and infrastructure; SDG 10 – reduced inequalities; SDG 11 – sustainable cities and communities; SDG 12 – responsible consumption and production; SDG 13 – climate action; SDG 14 – life below water; SDG 15 – life on land; SDG 16 – peace, justice and strong institutions; SDG 17 – partnerships for the goals.

 THE is now covering all the 17 SDGs rather than 11, as in last year's inaugural edition.

 A university's final score combines its score in SDG 17 with its top three scores out of the remaining 16 SDGs (institutions are not obliged to provide data on all SDGs). SDG 17 accounts for 22% of the final score, with each of the other three SDGs having a weight of 26%. This means that universities are evaluated based on different sets of SDGs, reflecting their various focus areas.

 The 2020 rankings include 857 universities from 89 countries compared to 462 universities from 76 countries last year. The universities that make up the top 10 come from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Italy, Canada and the US.

 Russia's best performer in the overall rankings is a Project 5-100 institution, Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU), in 37th place, followed by the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics (PRUE) in 91st, and Altai State University (ASU) in 95th. Four other Project 5-100 participants, Kazan Federal University (KFU), the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), National Research Nuclear University MEPhI and RUDN University, sit in the 201-300 band, with a further two, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University (IKBFU)and ITMO University, appearing in the 301-400 range.

 THE also calculates separate rankings for individual SDGs. Here, seven Project 5-100 institutions show up in the top 100. SPbPU leads the pack with 11 top-100 placings. It scores highest on climate action, and affordable and clean energy, ranking fifth in both categories. The university makes the top 50 of six other SDG league tables: life below water (#21), decent work and economic growth (#28), sustainable cities and communities (#30), zero hunger (#35), life on land (#38), and responsible consumption and production (#49). Finally, it is a top-100 university for clean water and sanitation (#51), no poverty (#57) and partnerships for the goals (#89).

 MEPhI, too, is doing a good job to achieve the UN development goals. It is in the top 100 for five SDGs: no poverty (#17), climate action (#57), life below water (#89), industry, innovation and infrastructure (#95) and life on land (#96).

MIPT holds two top-100 positions, ranking 64th for affordable and clean energy and 76th for no poverty. The other top-100 finishers among Project 5-100 universities are KFU, for peace, justice and strong institutions (#29); RUDN University, for decent work and economic growth (#45); IKBFU, for life below water (#50); and ITMO University, for sustainable cities and communities (#96).

 Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer at THE, notes that a university's participation in the impact rankings, which signals its commitment to global sustainability, is no less important than its final score, in contrast to many traditional university performance tables. The current rankings show that a large number of universities see an alignment with SDGs as a major part of their overall mission.

 Phil Baty is therefore convinced that universities are our society's greatest hope for solving some of the world’s biggest challenges.

 To compile its impact rankings, THE assesses universities across the following major areas: research, which measures the generation of knowledge related to the SDGs; outreach, which evaluates universities' direct work with their communities; and stewardship, which scores them on responsible resource management. THE also seeks to capture universities' general contribution to education for sustainable development.