Rankings released! QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2024 

Two students under a tree on a university campus.

The QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2024 are now live

The second edition of the QS World University Rankings: Sustainability evaluates universities based on three categories to assess how they are taking action to tackle the world’s most pressing global challenges. 

A total of 1,397 institutions are featured – more than double the number assessed in last year’s pilot edition – and 95 countries and territories are represented. 

The University of Toronto is named the world’s most sustainable university, followed by the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), and The University of Manchester. 

The three performance categories in the QS methodology for the World University Rankings: Sustainability 2024 are: 

  1. Environmental Impact — Comprised of three indicators: Environmental Sustainability, Environmental Education and Environmental Research 
  1. Social Impact — Aggregating five indicators: Equality, Knowledge Exchange, Impact of Education, Employability & Outcomes and Health & Wellbeing 
  1. New for 2024, Governance —Underpinned by indicators related to good governance such as ethics, hiring practices, transparency and decision making. 

Dr Drew MacFarlane, QS Rankings Manager, said “QS wants to support the higher education sector in its journey towards a more sustainable education for all and to encourage best practices in transparency, impactful research, equality, and climate mitigation. The QS Sustainability Ranking looks at performance across Environmental, Social, and Governmental categories, with a particular focus on the outward impact an institution is making, in the hope of sparking ideas, action, and engagement. It is a tool we offer to the sector to help drive positive initiative, and we are thankful to our higher education partners who have joined our efforts.”

Top ten in QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2024   

  1. University of Toronto (Canada) 
  1. University of California, Berkeley (UCB) (US) 
  1. The University of Manchester (UK) 
  1. University of British Columbia (Canada) 
  1. The University of Auckland (New Zealand) 
  1. Imperial College London (UK) 
  1. The University of Sydney (Australia) 
  1. Lund University (Sweden) 
  1. The University of Melbourne (Australia) 
  1. Western University (Canada) 

Institutional success 

The University of Toronto takes first place with 100 overall. Their highest category ranking lies in Social Impact, scoring 98.8 overall. The University scored highly in two of the indicators, Knowledge Exchange (99.8) and Equality (99.3). 

The only institution in the world to earn a perfect score of 100 in the Environmental Impact category, the University of California, Berkeley, also achieved 100 in the Environmental Education indicator. UK institutions have impressed, with the University of Manchester ranking third in the world, and top in the UK. Imperial College London is sixth, with the highest result of the rankings in the Knowledge Exchange and Health and Wellbeing indicators.  

In this year’s QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2024, the United States is the most represented country or territory with 209 ranked universities, including one in the world’s top 10. The next most represented countries are the UK with 93 and China with 90 universities ranked. 

Top 100 in regional performance  

Of the top 100 in this year’s rankings, we’ve highlighted some of the most notable performances by universities around the world. 

African university in the world’s top 50 

In terms of African countries, South Africa is at the top of the list. University of Cape Town (ranked 50th) is Africa’s top university for sustainability, and the only one to make the top 50 in the continent. This is primarily due to its outstanding performance in Environmental Sustainability, where it ranks among the top 20 universities in the world – as well as achieving Africa’s highest score in six out of nine evaluated indicators. 

Excellence in Australia 

Australia, with two top 10 universities, is among the top performers overall in this year’s rankings, behind Canada – which boasts three top 10 institutions. QS’ Social Impact category scores Australia the highest among countries with 10 or more ranked universities, due to its world-leading scores in the Equality indicator. In addition, all three of the world’s top-scoring universities in the Impact of Education indicator are Australian universities, suggesting excellent academic performance in subjects related to positive social impact.  

Asian university success 

A total of four Asian universities rank among the world’s top 50 – the University of Tokyo is the region’s highest-ranked institution, ranking 22nd overall. The National University of Singapore (26th), Seoul National University (46th) and Nanyang Technological University (50th) follow. Due to its world-class education in environmental and climate-related research, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been named the world’s best for Environmental Research and Asia’s best for the Impact of Education metric indicating academic excellence in subjects with the potential to generate social impact, such as Politics, Law and Education. 

Elite rankings in Canada 

Canada is the world’s most sustainable higher education system by some measures. The University of Toronto is the world’s highest-ranked university overall, while the University of British Colombia comes fourth. Canada is home to more universities in the world’s top five and top 10 than any other country or territory. Its universities offer exceptional Environmental Education, with more top 10 universities for this indicator than any other location, highlighting its academic prowess in environmental and climate-related subjects. Like its closest competitors, the UK and Australia, Canada performs excellently for Equality, with the University of British Columbia taking the world’s highest rank for this indicator. 

“A clear shift in priorities among today’s students” 

Jessica Turner, CEO of QS, explains how the QS World University Rankings: Sustainability are a cutting-edge tool for measuring the progress and collaboration efforts of universities worldwide. As Turner notes, students’ academic choices are driven not only by their career prospects, but also by their personal values and beliefs, pointing out the significance of these considerations for them: 

“For this generation of brand-conscious students, their chosen university represents a lifelong affiliation, deeply intertwined with personal identity, and social awareness. 

“Our 2022 Sustainability Survey revealed a striking trend: 79% of prospective international students view an institution’s sustainability practices as extremely or very important. Additionally, 82% actively seek information on these practices while researching universities. This demonstrates a clear shift in priorities among today’s students who are increasingly weighing the social and environmental impact of their future alma mater alongside academic excellence.”

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