Irish Universities among “world’s best for sustainability”

26 May 2021

Irish universities are among the “world’s best for sustainability” in the THE Impact Rankings 2021, with UCC achieving an overall top 10 placement in the world’s best list. 

The THE Impact Rankings assess the contributions made by universities worldwide to achieving a more sustainable world through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In total, 1,240 universities from 98 countries and regions have participated this year across the 17 SDGs.  

As well as University College Cork securing a top 10 spot in the overall table, the fundamental importance of Irish universities to solving some of the world’s greatest challenges is made clear across the rankings.

Highlights include:

  • University College Cork finishing in world’s top three for SDG12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG15 (Life on Land) 
  • UL, UCC and UCD in world’s top 20 for SDG11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
  • Across the 18 rankings a total of four Irish universities achieved eight top 10 positions

Ireland’s Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris said “This is fantastic news, and while the exceptional standard of the Irish higher education system is no surprise to me, I am delighted to see our universities ranked so highly internationally for their work in creating a sustainable future.  Sustainability is a significant economic and social challenge, and I look forward to working with the university sector and our partners in research and innovation to tackle it head-on.

We know we have the talent, and now, with my Department’s full support, we can work across our sectors and outside our boxes to make ideas reality.”

Sustainability is a key priority for the 7 university member of the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the IUA is delighted to partner with the Environmental Protection Agency on the “Campus Living Labs'' Sustainability Project as part of their National Waste Prevention Programme. The 2-year project which started in April aims to deliver evidence to inform campus sustainability programmes and foster and advance activities that will introduce systemic change in preventing waste and increasing recycling on campus. The promotion of sustainability in production and consumption can contribute significantly to waste prevention.

Highest World Ranking of IUA Universities in each Sustainable Development Goal Category


IUA University

Highest World Ranking


University College Cork


SDG 1 – No Poverty

Dublin City University


SDG 2 – Zero Hunger

University College Cork


SDG 3 – Good health and wellbeing

Trinity College Dublin 


SDG 4 – Quality Education

Maynooth University & Dublin City University 


SDG 5 – Gender Equality

Trinity College Dublin


SDG 6 – Clean Water & Sanitation

University College Cork


SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy

NUI Galway


SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth

University College Dublin


SDG 9 – Industry, Innovations and Infrastructure

University College Dublin


SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities

Maynooth University


SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

University of Limerick 


SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production

University College Cork


SDG 13 – Climate Action

Trinity College Dublin


SDG 14 – Life Below Water

University College Cork


SDG 15 - Life on Land

University College Cork


SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

University College Cork


SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals

University College Cork


 Read more about UCC's ranking.


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