Penn State 4th in US, 51st globally in 2024 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings | Penn State University (2024)

Campus Life

THE's Impact Rankings annually assess the top universities pursuing sustainable development goals 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State ranks No. 4 in the United States and No. 51 overall among the top international institutions assessed by the 2024 Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings. These rankings aim to assess universities against the United Nations’ 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. 

This ranking places Penn State in the top 2.6% of higher education institutions worldwide. The rankings were much more competitive this year, with 1,963 institutions participating — an increase of more than 23% from last year.  

According to THE, the rankings are calculated using calibrated indicators to provide comprehensive and balanced comparison across four broad areas: research, stewardship, outreach and teaching.  

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

"While universities across the world continue to increase their commitment to impact and sustainability, Penn State once again shows that it is a leading institution in this regard," said Sabine Klahr, interim vice provost for Penn State Global. "We are thrilled to see so many institutions engaged in this work and proud of the faculty, staff and students that empower the University to consistently contribute to addressing global challenges.” 

Penn State is a member of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), which promotes integrated approaches to implement the SDGs through education, research, policy analysis and global cooperation. SDSN members work closely with businesses and governments, particularly around the development and scaling up of new solutions. Penn State faculty conduct research and provide expertise that informs policy development. 

Through a comprehensive roadmap of goals, milestones and actions proposed by a University task force on carbon emissions reductions, Penn State has set a goal of achieving 100% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2035.  

“This continued recognition among an increasingly competitive field reflects the University’s commitment to catalyzing and supporting efforts that align with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals,” said Lara Fowler, director of Penn State Sustainability and the University’s chief sustainability officer. “Our emphasis on the SDGs for reporting sustainability successes allows us to amplify dynamic work in diverse areas across the commonwealth. 

“Penn State is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the sustainability space. Our substantial research, world-class faculty, effectual engaged scholarship, and innovative approach to interdisciplinarity and collaboration are exceptional resources in preparing the next generation of leaders to tackle these pressing global challenges.”  

Reported measurements of local impact reflect the University’s core missions of service and engagement. This includes outreach through programs such as Penn State Extension, and facilities such as The Arboretum at Penn State, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, the Student Farm at Penn State and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.   

Fowler shared an example of the Local Climate Action Program, an engaged learning opportunity that matches students with Pennsylvania communities to conduct greenhouse gas inventories and to develop climate action plans. As Sustainability Manager Paloma Vila from Lower Merion Township explained, “Climate Action Planning is a critical first step in empowering municipal governments and their stakeholders to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and those plans are so much more impactful when they’re rooted in facts and scientific data. The students put in a ton of hard work these two semesters to develop these components that are essentially the bedrock of the plan.”  

In addition to being in the top 2.5% overall, Penn State also had strong showings across the individual SDGs.   

Penn State’s SDG ranks were in:

  • SDG 2, Zero Hunger, ranking 3rd in the U.S. and 10th in the world. These universities are recognized for their dedicated efforts in pioneering world hunger solutions, extensive research in food security and impactful educational initiatives aimed at achieving zero hunger globally.

  • SDG 15, Life on Land, ranking 2nd in the U.S. and 10th in the world. The top institutions excel in combating biodiversity loss, promoting sustainable forest management and restoring degraded lands.

  • SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, ranking 4th in the U.S. and 17th in the world. These institutions excel in integrating sustainability into urban development, enhancing access to basic services, and improving the quality of public spaces and the take-up of public transport.

  • SDG 14, Life Below Water, ranking 4th in the U.S. and 54th in the world. The top institutions excel in advancing sustainable management of marine resources, protecting coastal ecosystems and combating marine pollution.

  • SDG 17, Partnerships for the Goals, placing in the top 300 worldwide, and 11th in the U.S. The top institutions excel in forging strong international partnerships that support sustainable development across various sectors.

Penn State emphasizes these SDGs for reporting to the Impact Rankings, however, there is strong work being done in other areas such as SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), and SDG 13 (Climate Action). For example, Penn State's Earth System Science Center uses climate system models to understand the climate system and develop modeling tools to serve Penn State and the broader community. Penn State’s Center for Energy Law and Policy provides a hub for interdisciplinary research around pressing energy issues where technology, social and legal frameworks are ingredients to successful policy design implementation.

Learn more about Penn State’s efforts to address the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals here.

The rankings were announced on June 12 during the Times Higher Education Global Sustainable Development Congress in Bangkok, Thailand. The four-day event saw leaders and administrators from around the world come together around the theme of “Uniting higher education, governments, industry and society for a sustainable future.” 

Penn State 4th in US, 51st globally in 2024 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings | Penn State University (2024)
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