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What are the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

Universities draw upon global framework to boost social impact of learning, research, and outreach.

[Graphic image: "Q" Sustainable Development Goals]

For universities, research and teaching excellence have traditionally been the key measures of success, however the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings provide a new and complementary opportunity to look at the social impacts post-secondary institutions are creating locally and abroad. At the heart of these rankings are the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are a set of 17 wide-ranging goals adopted in 2015 by UN member states – including Canada – as central to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They cover an array of objectives including, but not limited to, eradicating poverty and hunger, increasing health and wellbeing, achieving gender equality, advancing climate action and clean energy, stimulating economic growth and innovation, and improving education. While distinct, the goals are interdependent. True progress requires committed action on each and every one.

In reflection of its UN commitment, Canada has asked every segment of society to contribute to advancing the SDGs, calling for leadership, engagement, accountability, and investment on all fronts. The country’s post-secondary institutions are uniquely positioned to help accelerate this progress in all categories.

The THE Impact Rankings measure a school’s performance against the SDGs. This year, Queen’s, in its first-ever submission to THE Impact Rankings, demonstrated notable progress on all 17 SDGs, including on the eradication of poverty and hunger, improvement of local urban sustainability and ecosystems, and promotion of peace and inclusivity. Queen’s placed first in Canada and fifth in the world in these global rankings.

More broadly, a concerted, strategic approach to advancing the SDGs aligns all participating universities in Canada and abroad toward a common vision. As Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane writes: “[The SDGs] provide a shared language which helps universities in diverse geographical, political, and socio-economic locations understand and build upon the commonality of their work in both teaching and research.”

The SDGs also align with Queen’s emerging strategic framework which, through Principal Deane’s ongoing consultations with the university community, underscores Queen’s efforts to champion equity, diversity, inclusivity, and Indigeneity, as well as grow local, national, and international partnerships that increase the impact of its education, research, and social contributions.

Visit the United Nations website to learn more about the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and read about Queen’s stand-out performance in the Times Higher Education 2021 Impact Rankings.