Making an Impact – UN Sustainable Development Goals and university performance

Submission deadline date: 31 August 2023


Currently there is very limited research that puts United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the centre of discussions. Papers are being published from different areas and disciplines; however, there has been no integrated focus on how the United Nations Sustainable Development goals can impact sustainable behaviours. Further, how universities can influence the pursuance and achievement of the sustainable development goals is even less examined. However, with the availability of different kinds of rankings, this is changing. This issue of the journal could be the first to trigger interest, in an organized way, on how universities can contribute to the value of the SDGs. There is an opportunity to contribute in at least 17 different ways as there are 17 UN SDGs.

The SDGs provide a very comprehensive framework for an integrated discussion on how to achieve sustainability. Utilizing this framework and contributing to multiple goals is sometimes more attractive to organizations with limited resources (like HEIs) in place of pursuing one goal.

The idea would be to promote the framework while highlighting the contributions of HEIs in their effort to be sustainable while promoting sustainability outside their boundaries.

Many universities are pursuing SDGs and have adopted them as part of their institutional strategy. This special issue of the journal will allow these exemplars to be highlighted and to provide evidence of practice and outcomes that can assist other institutions in their planning an execution of sustainable objectives.

The Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings provide an important reference for institutions to assess their own progress and to provide a global perspective on broad advancement of the SDGs.

The special issue will also indicate patterns of success indicating where higher education is most impactful in influencing, leading or instructing on sustainable practices. And where it has a smaller role to play or where it needs to do better.

The issue will help provide experiences from institutions that have not received attention outside the institution’s own stakeholder group. Viewing the sector globally will enable a more general appraisal of the effectiveness of higher education in adopting sustainable practices, in research, teaching and operations and allow for future collaborations. For example, have institutions made sustainability a strategic goal and if so, how have they incorporated that into their administration? Are institutions turning their campuses into living laboratories to effect sustainable operations, engaging with students, staff, and faculty to develop increasingly sustainable behaviours? Which of the 17 UN SDGs best fit the sector? What countries or types of institutions are making the most impact? Are there policy indicators for institutions, governments, or funders to adopt to improve adoption?


List of topic areas

•    Institutional planning and adoption
•    Hybrid workforce and transit reduction 
•    Measuring, monitoring, costs and benefits
•    Impact of digital technology (e.g., to reduce carbon footprint)
•    Circular economy and procurement practices
•    Campus maintenance and space utilisation
•    Student life – campus facilities and housing


Teaching and learning
•    Knowledge formation and dissemination
•    Introducing remote and hybrid learning
•    Learning space design and operation
•    Curriculum and programs


•    Research, experimentation, and innovation
•    Research strategies 
•    X factors and unintended consequences


•    Outreach and leadership
•    New organisational configuration (e.g., work from home, online delivery)
•    Educating staff and community
•    Health and wellness


Submission information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available on IJSHE's ScholarOne site.

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title Making an impact – UN Sustainable Development Goals and university performance at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to "please select the issue you are submitting to".

Author guidelines must be strictly followed; they are available on the journal webpage.

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.


Key deadlines

Opening date for manuscript submission: 11 May 2023

Closing date for manuscript submission: 31 August 2023


Guest editors:

Anshuman Khare, Athabasca University, Canada: [email protected]

Brian Stewart, Simon Fraser University, Canada: [email protected]