ASU retains No. 1 in US, top 10 globally in UN Sustainable Development Goals ranking


Sunlight shines through gaps in a solar awning over the plaza outside the ASU Memorial Union

For the fifth consecutive year, ASU retains its No. 1 spot in the United States and top-10 spot globally for its work through education, research and practice in alignment with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Photo courtesy ASU

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With significant developments in ocean health, biodiversity, water security, food systems and sustainable economic development in the last year alone, Arizona State University has further established itself as a global leader in how a university can address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Through its Impact RankingsTimes Higher Education once again has recognized ASU for its commitment to assuming fundamental responsibility for the communities it serves. For the fifth consecutive year, ASU retains its No. 1 spot in the United States and top-10 ranking globally for its work through education, research and practice in alignment with the SDGs. ASU also ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for 11 out of the 17 SDGs. 

For its overall ranking, ASU came in ahead of Michigan State University, Penn State University and MIT domestically, and pulled ahead of Monash University, Université de Montréal and University of Edinburgh internationally. 

These rankings demonstrate ASU’s efforts to address some of the greatest challenges of our time. The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings measure the effects made by universities across the globe as they address the SDGs, a set of 17 specific targets agreed upon by all U.N. member states in 2015 to achieve a more sustainable future by 2030. 

“ASU’s repeated top ranking is more than a point of pride, it is proof of our unwavering commitment to creating the change we want to see in the world,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “As a 21st-century university dedicated to finding solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, our ranking reflects our priorities and progress in areas that demand urgent attention.”

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, an entity designed to explore sustainable futures of our world through discovery, learning, solutions and engagement, is uniquely positioned to address the SDGs and beyond. Peter Schlosser, vice president and vice provost of Global Futures at ASU, said the Global Futures Laboratory is designed to secure a future for all of Earth’s inhabitants on a healthy planet. 

“We live in a decisive decade with respect to the decisions we make concerning a sustainable future of our world characterized by innovation, economic growth and opportunity,” said Schlosser. “These rankings are a confirmation of the course the Global Futures Laboratory and ASU as a whole have taken towards shaping a future in which all life can thrive on a healthy planet.” 

ASU has maintained its No. 1 spot in the U.S. and its place in the top 10 globally since 2020. ASU's ranking was awarded in recognition of its leadership in these top three areas: 

  • No. 1 in the world for SDG 14, which addresses life below water; ahead of North Carolina State University, Penn State University and the University of Georgia.
  • No. 2  in the world for SDG 11, focused on sustainable cities; ahead of Michigan State University, Penn State University and MIT.
  • No. 3 in the world for SDG 15, which explores life on land; ahead of Penn State University, Michigan State University and the University of Maryland.

The reveal that ASU ranked No. 1 in the “Life Below Water” SDG comes after a busy year for ASU in the ocean space: The School of Ocean Futures, a school within the College of Global Futures, recently launched new undergraduate and graduate degrees that begin in fall 2024. On June 7, ASU celebrated the past 120 years of ocean research with ASU Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, a long-running institution that merged with the Global Futures Laboratory in 2021. Meanwhile, in Hawaiʻi, the reef restoration program ʻĀkoʻakoʻa — led by ASU and local community partners — recently celebrated the official opening of its first state-of-the-art coral reef facility. 

The other SDGs in which ASU ranked No. 1 in the U.S. are SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (clean energy), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

Times Higher Education also measures all universities on SDG 17, titled “Partnership for the Goals.” ASU rose significantly in its ranking this year compared with last year, supported by ASU’s implementation of a new general education curriculum. The General Studies Gold requirements now include sustainability as a core knowledge domain that all students must pursue as a general studies requirement.

“This updated ranking speaks to ASU’s unique ability to equip our large network of students with the skills needed in subjects like sustainability thinking, so that they can not only understand the challenges of our time, but feel informed and empowered to make an impact in their respective communities and future careers,” said Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost. 

Learn more about ASU's efforts in each of the 17 SDGs at sdgimpact.asu.edu.

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