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What are the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

Universities embrace a global framework to boost the social impact of learning, research, and outreach.

[Graphic image: Sustainable Development Goals]

While research and teaching excellence have long been the key measures of success, the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings provide an additional and complementary opportunity to look at the social impact 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 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 university’s performance against the SDGs. This year, following a stand-out performance in the 2021 rankings, Queen’s demonstrated sustained progress on all 17 SDGs, ranking 7th out of 1,500 institutions worldwide. The university is also on the podium for SDGs addressing the eradication of poverty and hunger, improvement of local urban sustainability and ecosystems, and promotion of peace and inclusivity. 

More broadly, a concerted, strategic approach to advancing the SDGs bring into line all participating universities in Canada and abroad toward a common vision. As Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane wrote in 2021: “[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 the newly established Queen’s Strategy, which seeks to recommit the university community to solving the world’s most significant and urgent challenges. Supported by core values of truth, responsibility, respect, freedom, and wellbeing, the Strategy will guide Queen’s strengthen its efforts to champion equity, diversity, inclusivity, Indigeneity, as well as its research intensity, teaching, community and social impact, and global presence.

Visit the Queen’s Advancing Social Impact website to learn more about how Queen’s is contributing to the SDGs and read more about Queen’s performance in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.

[This story was originally published on April 21, 2021, and has been updated to reflect Queen’s University’s performance in the 2022 THE Impact Rankings.]