Durham enters top 100 universities for sustainability


Durham University has been ranked 87th in the world for its overall contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, according to the annual Times Higher Education Global Impact Rankings.

The rankings also place Durham University in the top 100 in nine of the individual league tables for the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, an achievement the University has said it is “really proud of”.

This is the first time Durham University has been ranked in the top 100 for its overall contribution. In 2019-20, the University was ranked 101st. 

The Times rankings assess over 1000 universities from 94 countries, looking at their progress towards the 17 sustainable Development Goals.

The scope of the Goals is wide-ranging, aiming to eradicate poverty, hunger, and gender inequality, as well as looking to guarantee clean water and sanitation, and affordable clean energy. 

The University said: “We’re committed to a more sustainable future and we’re working hard to achieve this across our campus.”

The University also outlined some of the work it has done which has contributed towards its place in the global rankings including a commitment to no net losses of biodiversity across University estates, supporting water conservation on campus and using renewable technologies such as ground source heat pumps and solar panels, as well as ensuring food on campus is sustainably sourced. 

The University also cited its support for sustainable travel, biodiversity and nature conservation through its Infrastructure Improvements project, costing £6.5 million, its contributions to local arts and Durham’s cultural heritage, and its promotion of various events including ‘Water Awareness Week’ and ‘Walking Month’.

“Despite being a leading academic institution, Durham has miles to go in its efforts for sustainability”

Eco du

ECO DU said: “We’ve been in constant conversation with the University, developing a relationship that encourages constant development of sustainable practices. We are pleased that the University has appeared to make sustainability a priority, however, there remains much room for improvement.” 

Asked what further steps the University could take towards environmental sustainability, ECO DU told Palatinate: “One thing the University hasn’t done yet is declare a climate emergency. 

“The upcoming issue of our magazine The Echo discusses the importance of such language and the impact of an emergency response that treats the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves. 

“We can only hope that the University will continue listening to its staff and students and continue taking effective action. Despite being a leading academic institution, Durham has miles to go in its efforts for sustainability; however, this is definitely the first step in that direction.

In April, Durham committed to a joint effort by 56 world-leading universities in meeting the UN 2030 green goals in order to accelerate action against climate change.

Durham University and Durham Students’ Union signed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Accord in July 2020.

Image: Naomi Ellis and Nicoletta Asciuto

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