The QS Stars university rating system audits and rates over 600 universities globally in three criteria – core criteria, specialist criteria and advanced criteria, which includes the new environmental impact rating.
It comes after QS surveyed prospective international students and found that 94% thought universities “should do more to be environmentally sustainable”.
The new category for the rating system will aim to evaluate policy aspects such as sustainable investment, procurement, and donations and funding.
It will also examine individual staff members “dedicated to fostering sustainability or addressing climate change”, as well as the university’s climate action plan.
Operationally, it will finally focus on the consumption of each institution, including their water consumption and carbon footprint.
QS’s head of evaluation Leigh Kamolins echoed the importance of including the new rating for institutions globally.
“Universities play a pivotal role in meeting societal challenges such as sustainability, climate change and environmental impact,” said Kamolins.
The new rating is being put in place in the wake of QS’s own survey and the report by Pew, which found that Gen Z are “extremely worried” about climate change.
Some 76% Gen Z respondents said that it is one of their “major societal concerns”, with 37% saying it ranked highest among them.
“We introduced this new category in the QS Stars Rating system in response to the quest of higher education institutions that are keen to measure their environmental impact according to an international standard – and to the millions of students we engage with,” said Ben Sowter, research director at QS.
“A fast-growing number of universities are aligning their framework to the ESG criteria (environmental, social and governance), and embracing the stances of their students on environmental sustainability.”
“QS is committed to shining a light on the work done by universities around the world to embrace sustainability”
Kamolins also reiterated QS’s commitment to institutions’ current sustainability efforts.
“QS is committed to shining a light on the work done by universities around the world to embrace sustainability and to address it, from an operational, educational and research perspective.”
As well as the operational side of universities’ response to climate change, the rating system will also analyse key aspects of their research – including how they work towards the United Nations SDGs, and their sustainability centre.
Outreach and public education at the institution, as well as student organisations on campus and online, will also be evaluated.