The inaugural QS World University Rankings: Sustainability

QS World Rankings

On 26 October 2022, the first-ever QS World University Rankings: Sustainability launched, comparing 700 of the world’s top universities against a range of environmental and social sustainability metrics. 

The new ranking evaluates the social and environmental impact of universities as a centre of education and research as well as a major employer with the operational costs and sustainability challenges of any large and complex organisation. 

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UNSW has ranked joint fifth in the world and first in Australia



UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs said he was incredibly proud of UNSW’s ranking.

“The result reflects the University’s mission of driving towards a just, sustainable world – having a positive impact on the environment, social policies that promote equality and producing cutting-edge research. Importantly, these rankings reinforce our commitment to issues that are important to the UNSW community and strengthen our resolve towards advancing a just society.”

The rankings

QS engaged more than 40 world-leading experts across 20 countries on the QS Rankings Advisory Board for the 2023 QS Sustainability Rankings.

There are two categories to the QS Sustainability ranking: an Environmental Impact category, and a Social Impact category. Institutes can rank separately in each of these categories, in both of them, and overall.

Each Performance Lens is made up of separate indicators which are then aggregated to form a weight for each lens. The weights of each performance lens sum to 100 per cent for each category, and each category will in turn contribute 50 per cent towards the overall rank.


The methodology includes indicators which demonstrate: 

  • Research collaboration between Official Development Assistance (ODA) – commonly known as overseas aid – countries and non-ODA countries. 
  • Research assessment across 16 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 
  • Diversity among alumni, rating those universities with alumni that have gone onto make a major impact in tackling environmental and social challenges, in climate action, social policy and education.
  • Educational provision which incorporates social and environmental priorities.
  • The presence of publicly-available policies which support social and environmental initiatives. for example in improving diversity or achieving net-zero emissions. 
  • A measure of academic freedom which ranks countries by the openness with which academics are allowed to research and publish. 

Find out more