Professor Chris Dickman from the Desert Ecology Research Group  placing a captured small mammal in a bag during research into how native wildlife persists with feral cats and red foxes and copes with wildfire and the wildly fluctuating climate of central Australia.

Sydney continues to excel in global impact rankings

21 April 2021
2nd in the world, 1st in Australia for second year
University continues to excel in 2021 Times Higher Education Impact rankings which measure an institution's research, outreach and stewardship against UN Sustainable Development Goals.

For a second year the University of Sydney has been named as one of the world’s leading institutions making a positive impact on society, placing second in the world and first in Australia in the 2021 Times Higher Education Impact rankings.  

The Impact rankings, now in their third year, measure how an institution’s research, outreach and stewardship delivers against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a blueprint to achieving a better and more sustainable future for all.

The 17 goals encompass strategies to improve health and education, improve inequality, and spur economic growth, while tackling climate change and preserving our natural environment.  

Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Stephen Garton, said, “It is fitting that the University’s continuing excellence in these rankings reflect its ‘leadership for good’ mission; whether through its world-class research and education or its ongoing commitment to excellence in institutional policies and practice.”

Sydney performed exceptionally well in:

  • SDG6 Ensuring access to water and sanitation for all – placing first in the world. More than 174 researchers across at least seven faculties research issues related to clean water and sanitation. 

An ongoing multidisciplinary project looks at tackling water-borne diseases in Fiji; in 2020 a Sydney Nano team won a national research challenge for water capture; Sydney geoscientists have found that human impacts on regional rivers have made the area more susceptible to drought.

  • SDG 11 Making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable – placing fourth in the world. More than 28 researchers research inequalities and solutions to those complex challenges across at least four faculties.  

The Sydney Policy Lab looks at Sydney’s housing problem and the pressures of affordability putting people at risk; recent multidisciplinary research found that public transport investments offer greater returns in larger cities; Sydney Environment Institute researchers have turned their attention to heat stress and how we can respond.

  • SDG 15 Sustainably managing forests, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation, halting biodiversity loss – placing second in the world. More than 384 researchers research life on land across at least eight faculties.

Sydney researchers were the first to sequence the koala and echidna genomes, informing conservation efforts, from diet to genetic diversity. The Integrative Ecology Lab work on a diverse range of research questions related to both community ecology and landscape ecology, The Desert Ecology Research Group investigates the biodiversity of the small vertebrates of arid Australia.

It is fitting that the University’s continuing excellence in these rankings reflect its ‘leadership for good’ mission; whether through its world-class research and education or its ongoing commitment to excellence in institutional policies and practice
Professor Stephen Garton, Vice-Chancellor and Principal
Climate chamber at the University of Sydney

Research conducted in the Thermal Ergonomics Lab's climate chamber examines the physiological consequences of heatwave exposure and aids the development of evidence-based policy.

Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Sydney - who recently addressed a Times Higher Education conference on how humanities research supports the demands of the UN SDGs - said, “Our work across the sciences and humanities that engages and supports a better understanding of the SDGs is a vital part of our ambitions for research excellence and impact. We don’t see any trade-off between the two.

"Outstanding research – whether basic or applied – leads to highly impactful research and we are committed to harnessing our research strengths to address some of the biggest challenges of our time.” 

The University’s sustainability targets include:

  • net zero emissions by 2030
  • zero waste to landfill by 2030
  • 30 percent reduction on potable water use by 2030
  • minimum five-star Green Star rating for new buildings, and four-star Green Star rating for all complete building refurbishments
  • introduction of sustainable procurement practices to reduce waste and increase social sustainability.

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