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First University Impact Ranking to launch

Times Higher Education (THE) to launch world’s first university impact ranking

  • Initiative set to capture unique new insights on universities’ work towards UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • World-first represents ‘important and necessary step’ in documenting higher education impact – consultation with universities and sector experts to remain ongoing
  • First edition to be launched at THE’s Innovation and Impact Summit at KAIST, South Korea, in April 2019

TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION (THE) is set to launch the world’s first university impact ranking.The initiative – the first global attempt to document evidence of higher education impact – is designed to capture unique new insights on universities’ work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.Data collection will begin this autumn, with the pilot edition of the ranking to be launched at THE’s Innovation and Impact Summit at South Korea’s KAIST in April 2019.

Development of metrics

Metrics are being developed in partnership with Vertigo Ventures, an organisation that works with leading research institutions globally to help them identify, capture and report the impact of their work.
The 2019 edition – open to all accredited universities teaching undergraduates – will include metrics based on 11 SDGs, including 4 – Quality Education, 5 – Gender Equality, 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and 17 – Partnerships for the Goals.

The initiative – which will remain subject to ongoing consultative discussion – is expected to develop over time, with a long-term objective to recognise performance against all 17 SDGs. It will factor in aspects of research, university operations, and university impact.

Consultative process

THE has explored the potential for an impact initiative for several years. Consultation has been extensive and ongoing throughout the development of the ranking, including discussions last year at our inaugural Innovation and Impact Summit in Hong Kong, as well as more recently at our Young University Summit in Florida, in June.

We originally planned for the ranking to focus primarily on universities’ economic impact. However, following discussion and feedback with the higher education sector, the approach was expanded to embrace a much wider definition of impact, basing the overall analysis on the SDGs, to better reflect universities’ broader impact on society.The pilot edition, to be launched at THE’s Innovation and Impact Summit at South Korea’s KAIST in April 2019, will be subject to further consultative discussion.

‘Important and necessary step forward’

Phil Baty, Editorial Director, Global Rankings, THE, said: 

Universities contribute a huge amount to society, and this data can help capture unique new insights on how they’re addressing some of the most pressing global issues. This work has never been fully explored in the past, and has never been recognised in global rankings. 

He added: “The need and desire for clear, new metrics on impact is strong, and while this is a highly challenging area of data collection, it’s also an important and necessary step forward. “It’s an area we’ve been exploring and consulting on for many years and takes us well beyond traditional rankings parameters of research and reputation. This is an opportunity to highlight impactful work that often goes unrecognized and undocumented. It’s also a chance for universities which don’t usually appear in global rankings to shine for their work – so it’s really important that it develops in a way that enables universities, wherever they are in the world, to evidence their impact.

“As such, and as always, we’ll continue working in full partnership with the global university community to refine metrics and methods as we move forward, including consultation on the use of the data, and would encourage people to get in touch and be part of those discussions.”

Laura Tucker, Founder and CEO of Vertigo Ventures said: “Vertigo Ventures was founded to embed impact reporting for a sustainable world and so we are delighted to be part of this very exciting and much needed initiative of developing an Impact Ranking for universities. Having worked with our university clients globally over the last decade, we have seen how fast the impact agenda has grown, specifically with the rise of national research impact assessment frameworks, such as the REF in UK and EI in Australia. This new ranking will be another fantastic opportunity to celebrate and showcase the excellent work universities undertake and the range of ways in which they contribute to local, national and global societies and economies.” 


About Times Higher Education (THE): THE is the world’s most authoritative source of data, analysis and information on higher education, with five decades’ experience dedicated to the field, and 15 years of experience in global rankings and data analysis: 

About the SDGs: The 17 goals were adopted by the UN in 2015, and provide a framework for developing the world in a sustainable way. The SDGs are a development of the Millennium Development Goals – the internationally agreed priorities around which the UN hopes an ethical and sustainable development can be achieved, worldwide.

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