About SET4HEI 

The goal of this platform is to provide higher education institutions (HEIs) across the world with a self-assessment tool allowing them to map their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across time and identify areas for improvement. 

Sustainable development cannot be achieved without innovation or without professionals with the necessary competencies. Higher education institutions (HEIs) are in a unique position to provide both, but this potential entails a responsibility to action. HEIs can and should lead the way with their example, contributing to sustainability and equity both within and outside of their campuses.

Why use SET4HEI? 

The tool provides a systematic approach for institutions to know what their starting point is and what are their potential gaps. The assessment can be done at institution, campus or faculty level, though works best at the highest level. Having a single standard methodology and a dedicated online platform allows institutions to track their progress over time without having to depend on external consultants or undergoing the lengthy process of developing their own evaluation methodology.  

The self-assessment tool created by UNESCO IESALC has several unique features that make it the first of its kind: 

It is free! 

There is no charge for using the tool, and there will never be.

It is open 

Anyone use the tool without registering and see all its indicators online. HEIs, governments, quality assurance agencies, researchers, students and any citizen can use the tool to learn about good practices that HEIs can pursue to increase their sustainable development impact. 

Starting January 2024, free optional registration will be also offered, without requiring users or institutions to be members of a network. At the same time, HEI networks are welcome to reach out to us and organize or promote the use of the tool amongst their members. 

It is a self-assessment 

Users do not need to wait for anyone else, or for a yearly call and deadline to do the assessment, it is always available. 

Users do the self-assessment, which can be anonymous, to better understand their own institution’s SDG impact, so they can be honest in their replies, with no pressure that their answers will determine their external image or prestige relative to other institutions. 

It is non-competitive (no relative scores and no ranking) 

The goal of this self-assessment is to allow every institution to improve their sustainability impact, independently from their starting point, not to find out which one is having a bigger impact. Therefore, the scores of each user are independent from one another, with no indicator assigning scores on the basis of the average from all other users. This means that every institution can, in principle, reach the maximum score regardless of whether other institutions also improve theirs. 

The scores will never be used to inform a ranking of institutions. 

It is comprehensive

The self-assessment includes indicators across all 17 SDGs. This goes beyond the understanding of sustainability as a strictly environmental concern. The 17 SDGs provide a wider framework, incorporating environmental, economic and social impact perspectives, aligning with the United Nations’ vision of development, also known as the Agenda 2030. 

The assessment covers all areas of HEIs across four dimensions, including the three missions of universities (Teaching and Learning, Research, and Engagement) as well as their internal Governance, administration and non-academic services (sometimes referred to as management and operations). Institutions that do not do research, such as non-university higher education institutions, can simply skip this part. 

It has global relevance

The good practices on which the indicators are based have been selected from across the world, representing both developed and developing countries, prestigious universities and smaller institutions. While some of the good practices in the assessment may be more widespread in some countries, the indicators are designed in a way that does not grant higher scores based on the institution size, budget, or publication metrics. At the same time, based on the diverse nature of the 17 SDG, a wide range of academic programs is generally useful. In any case, users can choose to assess all SDGs or only those that they consider most relevant for their institution. 

By the end of 2023, this website and the SET4HEI assessments will be available in Spanish, French and Portuguese.

It offers an optional certification process 

Starting January 2024, higher education institutions will be able to request an external validation of their assessment by UNESCO IESALC. This can lead to a certificate, which is linked to a digital badge that the institution can use on their website and in their communication materials. 

This optional service is paid. As an international organization, UNESCO IESALC works on a cost-recovery basis for any service it provides.  

You can find more information about this process in the certification section.