How is your higher education institution contributing to sustainable development? 

SET4HEI (Sustainability Evaluation Tool for Higher Education Institutions) is a free, online and open resource for higher education institutions to map their current and potential future contributions to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This is an initiative led by the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in collaboration with other UN Agencies and higher education experts across the world.

SET4HEI is available in English and Spanish.

More information about the launch event can be found in the news section.

Click on individual SDGs below to see how HEIs can contribute to each of them and to access individual assessments.

Hover the mouse over an SDG icon for more information
Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to the eradication of poverty.
For example, they are key to train the next generation of social workers, development economists, civil servants in charge of social security and all other professionals who need to understand how economic exclusion affects and is affected by their area of work. Through their research, HEIs can contribute to measuring and better understanding poverty, and finding evidence-based solutions. Internally, HEIs must ensure that low-income students can effectively access and progress through higher education, removing economic barriers associated to tuition fees, learning materials, connectivity and the cost of living. Externally, HEIs can engage with disadvantaged local communities, offering free educational services or volunteering initiatives.
Hover the mouse over an SDG icon for more information
Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to the eradication of hunger. For example, they can help train the next generation of professionals in food production, nutrition and food policy. From agricultural engineers to biotechnology researchers, and professionals of animal husbandry and fishing industries, higher education graduates must be able to integrate sustainability into their respective fields. Through their research, HEIs can find more sustainable and resilient food production methods, and must be able to transfer knowledge to those working in these fields, from local farmers to governments or agrifood industry professionals. Internally, HEIs must ensure that students and staff access affordable food, while minimizing food waste and prioritizing sustainably produced food in the campus restaurants. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to everyone’s health and wellbeing. For example, they can train key professionals in healthcare, from medicine and nursing to psychology, pharmacology or public health. Through their research, HEIs advance the frontiers of these fields and transfer their findings to external stakeholders, from healthcare practitioners to policymakers. Internally, HEIs must ensure that students and staff can access physical and mental healthcare, while promoting healthy lifestyles. Externally, HEIs can advocate for healthcare rights, directly provide healthcare services (as volunteering or as part of experiential learning for students) and offer lifelong learning opportunities, from reskilling healthcare practitioners, to educating the public. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to quality education for all. For example, they can train the future early childhood, primary and secondary education teachers, pedagogues, specialists and managers. Through their research, HEIs can provide evidence-based insights into pedagogy and education policy. Internally, HEIs must ensure equal access (SDG target 4.3) through student data collection and disaggregation, policies and resources, e.g., to include students with physical and learning disabilities. Externally, HEIs can support education at all levels, from offering lifelong learning opportunities for educators (e.g., on Education for Sustainability, or new pedagogical approaches), to volunteering initiatives supporting schools in disadvantaged communities, or providing bridge courses to higher education graduates who struggle with their transition to tertiary education. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to gender equality. For example, they can train gender studies specialists and integrate gender equality in the curricula of all students. HEIs can also research gender-based inequalities, promote gender balance within their researchers, and integrate a gender perspective in all research. Internally, HEIs must not only ban gender-based discrimination, but also ensure that students and staff are safe from sexual harassment, abuse or violence. This requires dedicated policies, reporting and investigation protocols and resources. HEIs must also provide paid maternity and paternity leaves for staff, as well as affordable childcare services. Externally, HEIs can transfer knowledge and raise awareness on gender-specific issues (to specialists and the public), as well as advocate for women’s rights. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to clean water and sanitation. For example, they can train future professionals in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and integrate sustainability in WASH programs. HEIs can also research WASH-related topics from multiple perspectives, from civil engineering to infrastructure management, socioeconomic factors or public health, as well as transferring their knowledge to businesses, governments and communities. Internally, HEIs need to ensure efficient and sustainable water consumption on campus, as well as adequate wastewater treatment, preventing chemical or biological pollution. Externally, HEIs can provide lifelong learning opportunities on WASH to professionals, community leaders and activists. HEIs can also advocate for the right to safe drinking water, access to sanitation and sustainable water management. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to affordable and clean energy. For example, they can train future professionals in energy generation, distribution and management, integrating sustainability into their curricula. HEIs can also research these topics from multiple perspectives, from engineering to physics, chemistry, economics, green energy policies and policies against energy poverty. Internally, HEIs must advance towards 100% clean energy consumption, which can include in-campus generation of renewable energy, with timebound targets and implementation plans. Externally, HEIs can provide lifelong learning opportunities to energy professionals and the public. HEIs can also transfer knowledge on clean energy generation and applications to industry partners or governments, and support the incubation and acceleration of clean energy start-ups. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to decent work and economic growth. For example, they can integrate sustainability into economics, business, and finances programs, as well as train specialists in labour law and labour market policies. HEIs can also research these topics and offer industrial doctoral programs. Internally, HEIs must ensure decent working conditions for all staff, including workers of subcontractors. HEIs can link students with professional opportunities (e.g., through career centers, dual education programs, or credit-awarding internships). HEIs should also support student start-ups and staff spin-offs. Externally, HEIs can provide reskilling and upskilling courses on topics with high demand in the labour market, as well as entrepreneurship skills. HEIs can also engage with local small or micro businesses. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to industry, innovation, and infrastructure. For example, they can train future professionals in sustainable innovation and industry, or sustainable infrastructure. HEIs can also research these topics from multiple perspectives, from circular economy to civil engineering or industrial policy, and dedicate resources to promote research engagement and temporary researchers’ mobility with industry partners. Internally, HEIs can invite industry representatives to join advisory bodies, or support curriculum design and delivery in programs related to their sectors. Externally, HEIs can offer lifelong learning opportunities to industry and government professionals. HEIs can also create dedicated offices for knowledge and technology transfer, and for supporting the creation of innovation-based sustainable businesses among students and staff. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to reduce inequalities. For example, they can integrate the study of inequalities within a wide range of programs, on areas such as social sciences, humanities, health or urban planning, as well as creating courses that dive deeper into their causes and consequences on each area. HEIs can also research topics that relate to this SDG, such as social or economic inequalities, discrimination, fiscal and financial regulation, international aid or migration. Internally, HEIs must have a clear and enforceable non-discrimination policy on both staff and students. Externally, HEIs can provide lifelong learning opportunities on how inequalities can be identified and tackled. HEIs can also transfer knowledge on these issues to governments. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to the sustainability of cities and communities. For example, they can train professionals in sustainable urban planning, smart cities, urban resilience against climate change, sustainable urban water and waste management, or heritage preservation. HEIs can also research these and other urban issues, such as housing, or urban mobility. Internally, HEIs should provide students with sustainable and affordable commuting options, as well as affordable accommodation. Externally, HEIs can offer lifelong learning opportunities to the local community, allow open access to libraries and other spaces, and engage with local stakeholders on research, curriculum design and delivery, and local volunteering opportunities for students and staff. HEIs can also drive local entrepreneurship through geographies of innovation. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to responsible consumption and production. For example, they can train specialists in and research on sustainable natural resources management, sustainable materials and production methods, circular economy, sustainable waste management and resource recovery (recycling), sustainable tourism, sustainable procurement, and sustainable supply chains. Internally, HEIs can adopt sustainability standards for their procurement policies, reduce their use of plastic, ban the purchase of single-use plastic items, increase recyclable waste sorted collection, and reduce food waste and water consumption. Externally, HEIs can offer lifelong learning opportunities on SDG 12-related topics to policymakers, professionals, civil society (e.g., consumer associations) or the public, as well as transfer knowledge and operate a repair workshop open to the public. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to the fight against climate change. For example, they can train specialists in climate change research, mitigation, and adaptation on domains such as energy, transportation, construction, agriculture, forestry, biodiversity, extreme weather events, human migration, etc. HEIs can also integrate the effects of climate change into the curricula of a wide range of traditional programs, such as social sciences, health, architecture, civil engineering, or biology. Internally, HEIs need to set timebound targets and plans to achieve carbon neutrality, with actions such as renovating buildings. Externally, they can offer lifelong learning opportunities on climate change, participate in awareness-raising and advocacy campaigns, build research partnerships with external stakeholders, and transfer knowledge to policymakers or businesses. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to the preservation of underwater ecosystems. For example, they can train professionals who can integrate sustainability into ocean sciences, oceanography, marine biology, fishing and aquaculture industries, or marine technology. HEIs can also research these and other topics such as marine pollution and plastic debris, ocean acidification, the conservation and restauration of marine and coastal ecosystems, etc. Internally, HEIs must minimize their impact on aquatic ecosystems throughout all their operations, notably by adequately treating polluting waste and water discharges. Externally, they can offer lifelong learning opportunities on sustainable marine resources use or provide external stakeholders with access to facilities and equipment such as laboratory testing and computational power for research. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to the preservation of land ecosystems. For example, they can train professionals who can integrate sustainability into forestry and agricultural engineering and management, biology and botany, resource extraction, etc. HEIs can also research these and other topics such as desertification and land degradation, trafficking of protected species, etc. Internally, HEIs must minimize their impact on land ecosystems throughout all their operations, including adequate waste management. Externally, they can offer lifelong learning opportunities on sustainable farming, forestry, and tourism, as well as biodiversity preservation, to business owners, civil society groups, policymakers, and the public. HEIs can also facilitate volunteering activities for students and staff on these topics. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to peace, justice and strong institutions. For example, they can train professionals in law, criminology, public administration, and political science. HEIs can also research topics such as global security, organized crime, corruption, terrorism, international trafficking, children exploitation and abuse, participatory and representative decision-making, post-conflict peace and reconciliation, fundamental rights and freedoms, etc. Internally, HEIs’ advisory or executive bodies should integrate elected representatives of students and staff. HEIs should also recognize academic freedom, ensure physical safety within campus, and enforce policies against corruption and other abuses of authority. Externally, they can offer lifelong learning opportunities on these topics, provide a neutral platform for dialogue and free expression, and participate in advocacy campaigns. Higher education institutions (HEIs) can contribute to SDG 17. For example, they can train professionals on international relations and diplomacy, international cooperation, aid and development, and public finances and taxation. They can also integrate sustainability in the curricula of these programs, as well as in international trade. HEIs can research these topics as well as collecting data on local, national or international progress towards the SDGs. Internally, HEIs can have an international partnerships policy and strategy, an international office and a partnerships or engagement office. Externally, they can offer lifelong learning opportunities on these topics, and participate in South-South, North-South or triangular research, knowledge transfer, teaching or capacity-building partnerships with other HEIs, or external partners.

The SET4HEI certification

If you are a higher education institution who excels in the contribution to some of the SDGs and would like to position yourself as a leader in impact to sustainable development, the SET4HEI certification is for you. 

Your performance on the selected SDGs will be rigorously assessed and externally validated by peers and experts in the fields in a process coordinated by UNESCO.  Only certified institutions receive a UNESCO digital badge per each SDG in which they excel plus feedback on areas for improvement. This badge will be a prestigious signal on the activities HEIs undertake on sustainable development. This badge can be embedded in websites, email and communication materials.

For more information click here.  

News

Resources