The University of Pretoria (UP) is the top-ranked South African university in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 9 and 15, and featured second in the country for its performance in fostering SDG 8.
The rankings form part of the 2021 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, the only global performance tables that assess universities against the UN’s SDGs. This global ranking system uses carefully calibrated indicators to provide a balanced comparison across three broad areas: research, outreach and stewardship. SDG 9 focuses on industry, innovation and infrastructure, SDG 15 on life on land, and SDG 8 focuses on economic growth and decent work.
Universities can submit data on as many of the 17 SDGs as they are able to. Any university that provides data on SDG 17 (Partnerships for the goals) and at least three other SDGs is included in the overall ranking.
“Our performance was shaped by high scores in the research we undertake, our internal practices and research income from industry,” said Dr Brian Chicksen, special projects advisor to UP’s executive leadership. UP achieved an overall score of 76.9 out of 100, compared to 76.0 for 2020. This placed the University in a ranking position of 201 – 300 out of 1 115 ranked institutions worldwide.
UP participated in 11 of the 17 SDGs. In eight of the 11, the University was ranked in the top 25% of all ranked institutions. Globally, its performance in terms of SDG 15 (life on land) was ranked 76, while SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and SDG 8 (economic growth and decent work) both ranked in the 101 – 200 range.
“Our high performance in these SDGs is testimony to our balanced approach to human and economic development, while protecting our scarce resources and addressing potentially negative impacts on our terrestrial ecosystems,” Dr Chicksen added. “Recognising the complexity of the challenges faced in attaining a brighter future for all, our performance was also a clear reflection of our enduring commitment to collaborating and partnering for the goals.”
UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe welcomed the rankings. “As we continue to focus on making a positive impact on the challenges facing society, we are confident that we will be a key driver of innovative and sustainable development in South Africa and on the broader African continent.
“Our aim at UP is to have a big impact on society,” he added. “When Africa and South Africa are prosperous, and people are living better lives; we know we have made a contribution. UP is not an ATM for degrees – we want our students to enjoy success and improve the lives of others.”
Prof Kupe pointed out that UP produces challenge-led, transdisciplinary research as reflected in the SDGs. “This sets us apart from other universities. We do this through our transdisciplinary research platforms, which comprise our Future Africa institute and campus, Engineering 4.0, the Javett-UP Art Centre and Innovation Africa @UP.”