Scottish universities have taken some of the top places in a league table ranking the world’s higher education institutions against United Nations development goals.  

Rated by Times Higher Education, the Impact Rankings measure the contribution of more than 1,700 universities worldwide against the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

SDGs cover activities across social, economic, and environmental sustainability, such as ‘Reduced Inequalities’, ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’, and ‘Climate Action’. 

Glasgow University topped the table in Scotland, and was placed second in the UK - while being judged to be in 13th place internationally.  

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Three other universities made the top 100 across the world – Strathclyde, at 36th place, Edinburgh at 52nd. 

This means that overall Scotland comes sixth in top 100 representation, alongside Ireland and Thailand, and ahead of nations with much bigger populations such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Mexico. 

The Herald:

Three universities from Scotland - St Andrews, Robert Gordon and SRUC - have entered the rankings for the first time in 2023, and all ten Scottish universities score in the top half of the rankings. 

First Minister Humza Yousaf welcomed the group’s rankings, saying that Scotland’s universities are “rightly renowned across the world”  

He said: “Our higher education sector will be a key partner in helping government to meet some of the greatest challenges society faces, from climate change to inequalities.  

“I was pleased recently to see first-hand some of the outstanding research being done at the University of Glasgow which will help to inform government policy as we seek to shift the dial on poverty, and child poverty in particular. 

“Our universities are a real success story for Scotland on the international stage – and I look forward to working with the University of Glasgow and all of our institutions as we look to make Scotland a fairer, more equal place for everyone who lives here.” 

Glasgow University was especially highly ranked against three of the SDGs – placing second in the world in the Sustainable Cities and Communities category, sixth in the Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions ratng and ninth in the world for Partnership for the Goals.  

The Herald:

Humza Yousaf with Anton Muscatelli 

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “We are extremely proud that the University has improved upon last year’s strong performance, particularly given the increase in participating institutions.  

"As a civic University we are committed to contributing to the delivery of the SDGs and making an impact on our city, on Scotland and globally, too." 

“I’d like to thank all colleagues who have been involved in working towards the SDGs. Our exceptional performance for the second consecutive year is a result of their hard work and dedication." 

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Universities Scotland Director, Alastair Sim said: “It is immensely rewarding to see Scotland’s universities featuring so prominently when it comes to making a positive impact on Sustainable Development. 

 “Our universities exist to serve their communities, both local and global, and part of the university role is to support the development of a positive future, helping to ensure it is more equitable and sustainable for humanity and the planet. Our universities will continue to be active in their mission to contribute to the common good.”