Penn State among top US, international institutions in 2021 THE Impact Rankings

April 21, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State ranked fourth in the U.S. and 32nd in the world out of 1115 international institutions that participated in the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings, released today (April 21), placing the University in the top 3% of universities worldwide. 

The Times Higher Education Impact Ranking is a broad multidimensional assessment of a university’s research, community outreach and education and campus operations. The criteria used in the assessment are linked to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global goals adopted by all U.N. Member States that look to improve life for all people and protect the planet.  

Last year, the University ranked third in the U.S. and 35th in the world out of 767 institutions.

“Critical research and other endeavors by faculty, staff and students have prioritized sustainability across the University and enabled us to achieve these prestigious rankings," said Nicholas P. Jones, executive vice president and provost. "We will build on this recognition by implementing Penn State's Strategic Plan through 2025, which cites stewardship of our planet’s resources as one of five priorities and ensuring a sustainable future as a key foundation. Facets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are included in our units' strategic plans, as well, which supports our sustainability efforts University-wide and in our communities."  

In addition to being in the top 3% globally overall, Penn State also had strong showings in individual goals. The University ranked first in the U.S. and 25th in the world in SDG 17 (Partnerships), second in the U.S. and 16th in the world in SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities), second in the U.S. and 16th in the world for SDG 15 (Life on Land), and third in the U.S. and 12th in the world for SDG 2 (Zero Hunger).

“As we look to the future, it is critical that we harness our collective skill and knowledge to address inequities and recognize opportunities to improve our global society."

— Penn State President Eric J. Barron

The University also had very strong showings in other SDGs, placing in the top 10% worldwide for SDGs 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and 14 (Life Below Water) and just outside the top 10% for SDGs 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions).

“As we look to the future, it is critical that we harness our collective skill and knowledge to address inequities and recognize opportunities to improve our global society,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron in a welcome video at the Times Higher Education Innovation and Impact Summit on April 18. “The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals emphasize the need to act for the collective society. The goals provide a framework to focus our efforts, and the discussion around them offers useful insights into how we can continuously improve upon this work.”

Penn State’s ranking is due in part to its breadth and depth of exceptional research, including its strength as Pennsylvania’s land-grant and sea-grant university.

“For over a century, Penn State’s land-grant mission has oriented us toward service to society, and decades of investment in interdisciplinary research have positioned us well to address the complex challenges and transformational opportunities the Sustainable Development Goals represent,” said Tom Richard, director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment. “This recognition is evidence of the vital role universities can play in accelerating innovation and amplifying impact, at both local and global scales.”

The University works to contribute to a healthy, more sustainable planet. For example, Penn State has developed multiple strategies to reduce its energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the University’s water management programs are led by a conservation program that has reduced its annual water usage by 25%. Other important factors include the University’s stormwater infrastructure, stream bank restoration, source water protection and the living filter, a 600-acre area of land where treated effluent from Penn State’s wastewater treatment plant is applied, then filtered naturally through plants, soil and rocks before it recharges the region’s water table. 

Furthermore, Penn State uses its facilities as a living lab to continuously improve outcomes. The University's 30-million-square-feet of facilities provide opportunities for academic enhancement, research partnerships and student engagement.  

"Penn State's commitment to using itself as a laboratory to achieve operational sustainability, advance student education, and serve as a model for community partners is an example of the University's 'enterprise approach' to sustainability," said Paul Shrivastava, chief sustainability officer and director of the Sustainability Institute. "Through our commitment to sustainability in the University strategic plan and holistic institutionalization of sustainability in all aspects of the University — including operations, allied and business services, athletics, investing, and risk management — we empower everyone at Penn State to advance the 17 sustainable development goals in a unified and integrated manner."

Another key facet in Penn State’s ranking was its core missions of service and engagement. This includes outreach through facilities, such as The Arboretum at Penn State, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, the Student Farm at Penn State and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.

“This recognition is evidence of the vital role universities can play in accelerating innovation and amplifying impact, at both local and global scales.”

— Tom Richard, director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment

The Impact rankings were announced at the Times Higher Education Innovation and Impact Summit, held April 18-22 and co-hosted this year by Penn State and its partner institution, the University of Auckland. The four-day event saw leaders and administrators worldwide come together around the theme of “Cultivating resilience, changing the world.”

“In an era when institutions across the world are increasingly focused on impact and innovation, I am delighted that Penn State retains a global reputation as a world leader,” said Roger Brindley, vice provost for Global Programs at Penn State. “From the solution-oriented and applied research across our colleges, institutes and the commonwealth, through our strategic efforts to promote scholarship of sustainability, Penn State faculty, staff and students continue to seek new knowledge and apply the importance of sustainable positive societal change. I congratulate the whole University on these continuing efforts.”

For more information about Penn State's international rankings, contact William Shuey in the Office of Global Programs at wts5003@psu.edu.

 

Last Updated April 21, 2021