The University of Pretoria (UP) is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world in three categories of the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2019, based on the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The results were announced earlier this week.
This is the first time UP participated in these rankings, achieving an overall placement in the 101-200 band of institutions, and placing second in South Africa. This THE ranking initiative recognises universities across the world for their social and economic impact, based on the SDG goals.
The institution featured in the top 100 for Quality Education (SDG 4); Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9); and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (SDG 16). It was ranked in the 101-200 band for Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17) and Good Health and Wellbeing (SDG 3), with no South African university ranked under 200 in this category.
According to the THE, this second edition includes 766 universities from 85 countries which submitted data “to participate in a new ranking focused on universities’ social and economic impact. This rich dataset provides a framework for institutions to benchmark the impact they are making through their research, stewardship and outreach.”
The THE Impact Rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the UN SDGs, while the 2019 ranking results is the second set of annual results produced by the THE.
Professor Anton Ströh, UP’s Vice-Principal: Institutional Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, said each university had to select three of the SDGs to report on their contributions for the year 2019, and it was compulsory to report on SDG 17. “We entered in areas where we have a niche, while we wanted to be globally competitive and to be ranked on the international stage.”
UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe congratulated staff and students for achieving excellent results in the University’s first year of participation in the THE Impact Rankings Survey. “As we strive to become a transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research institution, we value partnerships and collaborations with governments, universities and other organisations nationally and globally. We produce world-class, cutting-edge research that is relevant and makes a difference to lives nationally, on the African continent, and globally.”
Details of the results are set out below:
Good Health and Wellbeing (SDG 3)
Score 69.1 out of 100
Ranked 101-200 globally
UP achieved a score of 85.7%, in the ‘Collaboration and health services’ category, indicating that it is extremely active in leading initiatives to promote good health and wellbeing. An example is the Faculty of Health Sciences being involved in close to 30 projects in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the UP Institute for Sustainable Malaria Control (UP ISMC) aiming to bring change to the lives of South Africans through evidence-based research findings.
Quality Education (SDG 4)
Score 68.7 out of 100
Ranked 96 globally
The University’s initiatives in lifelong learning and educational research scored both above 80% and this contributes to the overall achievement of being ranked 96 out of 676 institutions. UP uses a hybrid learning approach (learning in class, online and community settings) as working in communities does not simply complement the learning process: it is a powerful way of demonstrating compassion in real and useful ways.
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9)
Score 75.2 out of 100
Ranked 94 globally
In terms of the United Nations’ 17 SDGs, innovation, infrastructure and sustainable cities and communities are critical for developing any economy. UP’s soon-to-be-launched Engineering 4.0 Campus will be a hub for smart cities and transport. It will foster inter-disciplinary research in the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in partnership with the South African National Roads Agency and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (SDG 16)
Score 76 out of 100
Ranked 68 globally
UP was especially recognised for its internal governance measures, with a score of 93.9%, indicating that its policies and standards are world class. It achieved a score of 100% in working with government.
One of its contributions is the work of Professor Christof Heyns, Professor in the Centre for Human Rights, who was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee to lead a two-year process to draft guidelines on the proper management of demonstrations. This will be the leading UN text setting out international legal and other standards determining how states must approach mass protest and other forms of assembly.
UP is also participating in an inter-university innovation challenge to help the City of Tshwane with ideas for innovative and efficient service delivery and has teamed up with the Hatfield City Improvement District to improve safety and security in the Hatfield precinct.
Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17)
Score 72.4 out of 100
The University has direct involvement in, or input into, national government SDG policy development through the South African SDG Hub at UP, headed by Professor Willem Fourie. This entity connects South African policy makers with the research and innovations they need to implement the SDG goals. Prof Fourie was seconded to the Presidency to support the government with its social and economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.