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Otago among the world’s best for sustainability

Thursday, 4 June 2020

The University of Otago has been ranked 23rd in the world in the latest Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings.

The rankings measure how more than 800 global universities are performing against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established in 2015.

The SDGs are a bold set of goals for every country in the world to strive for by 2030 and address 17 areas, such as hunger, poverty, energy, education, inequality, and health. The Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings 2020 assesses universities’ performance in contributing towards reaching those goals.

Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says the results reflect the University’s ongoing dedication to sustainable teaching, research, and operations.

“We were the first New Zealand university to sign the international SDGs accord in 2018 at which time we pledged to contribute to sustainability not only around our campuses and the country, but also around the world.

“Staff and students and indeed the community, can take pride in this result.”

University of Otago Head of Sustainability Ray O’Brien says while the ranking shows the University is “tracking in the right direction”, there is still much work to be done.

“We have immediate opportunities. As we come back from lockdown, this ranking gives us an added prompt to reset a new norm that is more sustainable than before. We have just experienced some of the biggest changes in behaviour in living memory. Let’s use that adaptability as we come back to work and study to make those changes we never quite got round to making before.

“Globally we are committed to meeting the SDGss by 2030. As an institution we have committed to carbon net neutrality by 2030. This means that sustainable development has to be integrated into our strategy and follow-up actions at all levels and in all areas- together we need to be boldly sustainable,” O’Brien says.

Collaboration is the secret to success, he says.

“This ranking is an important reminder of how important it is that we all work together; goal 17 is based on forming partnerships for good reason.”

He says The New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities – a dedicated research base for innovative solutions to the economic, social, environmental and cultural development of urban centres – and the Otago Regional Centre for Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development, are examples of such collaboration. Otago is a member of both.

“The work done across disciplines, schools, sectors and universities is key to making progress towards sustainable development.”

Otago was ranked 5th in the good health and well-being section, which Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton says is evidence of the Division’s dedication to research on key diseases and conditions.

“Our researchers have been at the forefront of research since this University was established in 1869. We are very proud to be able to say we are one of New Zealand’s most research-intensive universities and our researchers are world-class and we are very proud to be one of the world-leaders in these very important rankings.”

Otago Business School is believed to be the first business school in the world to adopt the United Nations SDGss as part of its strategic mission.

Pro-Vice Chancellor Robin Gauld says the school is “delighted to have assisted the University of Otago’s efforts in sustainability, leading to this fantastic and well-deserved outcome”.

“We were proud to be the first business school globally to explicitly commit to the UNSDGs with the launch of our current strategy in late-2017.

“We were also evaluated as ‘above expectation’ in our 2018 EQUIS re-accreditation, meaning that our teaching and research in sustainability sets an example that other business schools globally should follow.”

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