The University of Pretoria (UP) rose through the 2024 QS World University Rankings on Sustainability to be positioned 156th globally, improving its position by 20 places from 2023, when it was placed in the 171-180 band. UP is one of three South African universities listed in the top 200 performing institutions in this ranking, which featured close to 1 400 universities for 2024.
In 2023, QS World University Rankings implemented a new ranking system focused on the performance of universities globally on sustainability outcomes. These outcomes are closely linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) introduced by the United Nations. The scope has been broadened since the first edition, with the 2024 ranking outcomes featuring adjusted methodology.
There are three category ranks – Environmental Sustainability, Social Sustainability and Governance – which are underpinned by performance lenses and metrics and metrics weightings to determine the final ranking position. Each performance lens is designed with a scalable data point, with institutional data and national-level data on the different institutions collected. The ranking focuses more on the impact of universities (alumni outcomes, research impact, reputation, staff perceptions, etc.) on the environment and society, than on operational measures and internal processes at universities.
Twenty-seven new African universities were included in the sustainability rankings for the first time in 2024, bringing the total to 43. The number of universities globally that qualified and were ranked in 2024 is almost double the number ranked in the 2023 rankings. It is noteworthy that the African continent almost tripled its number listed over this period from 16 to 43. UP was ranked third in South Africa and Africa.
UP Interim Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Themba Mosia said that the University’s improved position since 2023 is encouraging recognition of UP’s many diversified efforts to achieve its sustainability goals. “UP is deeply rooted in its commitment towards achieving the SDGs and this improved global position reflects this dedication. Making a positive difference in the environment and in people’s lives is something that UP is passionate about and filters into every area of the institution,” he said.
Improvement in THE Impact Rankings
Sustainability is one of the institutional goals outlined in UP2025, the 15-year long-term strategy which serves as a blueprint for the University’s role as a national asset, and guides its responses to national, regional, continental and global challenges and priorities. Every action of the University is focused towards achieving its vision: To be a leading research-intensive university in Africa, recognised internationally for its quality, relevance and impact, and also for developing people, creating knowledge and making a difference locally and globally.
Earlier this year, UP also improved its position in the 2023 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, rising to position 69 (up from the 101-200 band in 2022) out of 1 705 universities in 115 countries. This climb up the rankings comes despite increased competition – the number of participating universities grew from 1 410 in 2022 to 1 705 in 2023. In 2023, UP maintained its 2nd position in South Africa. At the continental level, UP is now ranked 2nd (3rd in 2022). The THE Impact Rankings measure actions taken by higher education institutions around the world toward achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Each university’s overall score and rank are determined by its combined performance in its top three SDGs (each counting 26%) and SDG 17 (“Partnerships for the goals”, 22%).
Last year, UP launched the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) South Africa. This is an international initiative that marshals global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development. The aim of the national network is to mobilise and support South African universities and other leading research institutions to promote the UN’s SDGs in South Africa, as well as the country’s contribution to the goals globally.