UBC’s global impact is highlighted in the new Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, ranking second in Canada for impact, and 13th in the world. More than 1,000 institutions participated in the rankings—a 50 per cent increase from last year.
The THE rankings measure how well universities help to advance the 17 United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) that promote social and economic well-being across the planet. In addition to its overall impact, UBC placed in the top 10 in six of the goals tracked by the rankings.
The university tied for first place in SDG 9, which captures research on industry and innovation, industry engagement and the number of patents and spin-off companies.
“University-industry connections are critical in bringing inventions and solutions to life, and this was certainly brought home as UBC spin-off companies AbCellera and Acuitas played significant roles in the earliest treatment and vaccine responses to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said UBC president and vice-chancellor Santa J. Ono.
“Our community members placed a concerted effort to understand the virus, develop new vaccines and medical treatments and build other support systems. Their successes helped save lives and are now putting us on track to build back and become stronger in the future.”
Advancing sustainability and protecting life
UBC also placed fifth globally in protecting life below water (SDG 14) with university researchers and educators working to study and monitor aquatic species and environments at risk, promote environmental stewardship for the oceans and find solutions to pollution.
The university ranked fifth in pursuing research on sustainability (SDG 11) through such actions as sustainable land use and transportation planning, and providing for mixed-use, accessible communities that support amenities such as daycare, local retail and commercial services as well as diverse arts and cultural facilities.
UBC placed sixth in SDG 12, which measures research on responsible consumption and sustainable use of resources for its aggressive zero-waste action plan, zero-waste foodware strategy, sustainable procurement, and Re-Use It program–which all support circular economy and diverting waste going into landfills.
It ranked seventh in protecting life on land (SDG 15) reflecting research, education and support for land ecosystems such as forests.
“These rankings reflect UBC’s ongoing commitment to integrating our research, teaching and operations in many different ways that can contribute to the future health of our local and global communities, ” said Dr. Gail Murphy, vice-president, research and innovation.
Importantly, UBC ranks third in SDG 13, which includes the expanded use of renewable biomass energy facilities and preparations for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
John Madden, director of sustainability and engineering at UBC campus and community planning notes that the university has successfully achieved significant emissions reductions in the past 10 years despite growth in floor space and number of students. UBC is currently updating its climate action plan to accelerate towards net zero emissions over the next decade.
“UBC’s climate action plan 2030 will look at more opportunities to reduce emissions—particularly those associated with food, commuting, waste and air travel. Expansion of the bioenergy facility is nearing completion, which will further reduce UBC Vancouver’s emissions to approximately 62 per cent below 2007 levels,” said Madden.
In addition to reducing emissions, UBC is also working on a deeper response to the climate emergency. A task force of students, together with staff and faculty, consulted widely with the UBC community, and made a number of recommendations in nine priority areas across the university. These include supporting climate leadership and initiatives led by Indigenous, Black and people of colour, strengthening climate research, developing partnerships to tackle the climate emergency, and accelerating emissions reductions at both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.
“We’re inspired by the impact rankings to continue our work to achieve a more sustainable, more just society. I look forward to working with partners on our campuses and around the world to expand on what we have built so far,” said Professor Ono.
For more information on the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, click here.