USF ranks third nationally in sustainable development goal impact ranking

USF’s dedication to ending poverty, building sustainable infrastructure and conserving marine life landed the institution in the top 30 schools worldwide that are contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

USF’s work toward achieving the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has paid off this year, ranking the university third nationally and 30th internationally in the Times Higher Education’s 2021 Impact Rankings.

The World University’s Impact Rankings quantifiably measure the efforts of 1,115 universities from 94 countries and regions to achieve any of the UN’s 17 SDGs, which are initiatives that act as a blueprint to create a “better and more sustainable future for all.”

There were 45 total U.S. universities evaluated, and USF was ranked third in the nation for its efforts, following Arizona State University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. USF was not assigned a specific number ranking in 2020, but rather placed in the “top 101-200 schools internationally” category.

USF President Steven Currall said in a press release Wednesday afternoon the ranking can be attributed to the university’s approach to helping the community.

“The University of South Florida’s mission as a global urban research university reflects our deep commitment to addressing the greatest challenges facing communities here in the Tampa Bay region and around the world through impactful research and a dedication to student access for success,” Currall said.

Each of the 17 different SDGs deals with a different topic. Some revolve around sustainability while others deal with poverty, hunger, equality and peace. The purpose of the goals is not to create a specific plan for achieving each outcome, but rather to promote a general global initiative countries and institutions can target to make differences on a large scale.

USF ranked in the top 20 schools nationally for all 17 of the categories, but a few specific ones elevated the university in the rankings. The first was Goal One, titled “No Poverty.” This goal aims to “end poverty in all of its forms everywhere.”

The Times Higher Education 2021 Impact Rankings placed USF No. 1 in the nation and No. 2 in the world for its efforts to eliminate poverty. One of the contributing factors was USF’s tuition rates, which are some of the lowest in the country, according to the press release, as well as the ability of over 40% of the students to qualify for Pell Grants, which are grants based on financial need of the student and their family.

Along with success in Goal One, USF also ranked No. 2 nationally and 28th internationally in Goal Nine, which focuses on “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.” This goal seeks to create sustainable inventions and buildings all over the world.

Within this category falls some of USF’s recent achievements, like the air purification system Molekule in 2017, which was created by faculty at USF and is being produced in Polk County, and the satellites that were launched into orbit by aerospace company SpaceX in collaboration with the USF engineering department in January.

The final goal, which boosted USF to the top of the rankings, was Goal 14, “Life Below Water,” which advocates for the conservation of the world’s oceans and the development of marine resources. USF ranked second nationally and 10th internationally.

The university’s contribution to this goal was largely due to the initiatives of the St. Pete campus, where faculty experts consult on marine issues in the area. One of the most recent contributions was the development of the research vessel which investigated the impacts of the breach at Piney Point.

Currall said in the press release the ranking is indicative of the university’s contributions to the SDGs and that those actions will only continue.

“We’re proud to join the world’s top universities in the development and application of innovative and interdisciplinary research focused on sustainable development. Together we can help ensure a better and more sustainable future in our own communities and around the world,” Currall said.