Irish universities among the world’s ‘best for sustainability’

22 Apr 2021

Jack Murphy, head gardener at University College Cork, pictured in the university’s wildflower meadow. Image: Clare Keogh

University College Cork came eighth overall in this year’s Impact Rankings of sustainable universities.

Universities in Ireland are among the best in the world when it comes to sustainability.

That’s according to the 2021 Impact Rankings from Times Higher Education, which looked at how more than 1,000 universities from 94 countries have contributed to sustainability under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

University College Cork (UCC) secured a top 10 spot in the overall rankings, coming in eighth place behind universities in the UK, Australia, Canada and Denmark.

UCC was ranked highly in the responsible consumption and production category, which measured universities’ research on responsible consumption and their approach to the sustainable use of resources.

It also ranked third in terms of life on land, which looked at universities’ education on and support for land ecosystems, and ranked fourth for life below water, which focused on education and support for aquatic ecosystems.

“We are proud to be in the top 10 universities in the world that are making an impact towards creating a sustainable future for our planet,” said Prof John O’Halloran, interim president of UCC.

“Our teaching, research and public engagement has been assessed as world class and we are proud to be Ireland’s leading university making an impact towards a sustainable world.”

Nine third-level education institutes in Ireland were ranked across the 17 different categories and an overall ranking.

Under sustainable cities and communities, which measured universities’ research and internal approaches to sustainability, University of Limerick, UCC and University College Dublin all ranked in the top 20.

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland was ranked second globally in the category that looked at research into key diseases and conditions and support for healthcare professions.

Trinity College Dublin, which just saw the election of its first woman provost, ranked sixth in terms of its study of and policies on gender equality.

“While the exceptional standard of the Irish higher-education system is no surprise to me, I am delighted to see our universities ranked so highly internationally for their work in creating a sustainable future,” said Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD.

“Sustainability is a significant economic and social challenge, and I look forward to working with the university sector and our partners in research and innovation to tackle it head-on.”

The rankings have been published during a week where sustainability is in the spotlight. After the International Energy Agency released a “dire warning” about the world’s rising carbon emissions, the EU reached a deal on a “landmark” climate law that is aiming to reduce net carbon emissions by at least 55pc by 2030.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic