The share of global universities encouraging home working has risen significantly, data from Times Higher Education’s latest Impact Rankings reveal.
Between 2019 and 2020, the number of universities with remote working policies jumped by nine percentage points, from 453 to 509, based on the 583 universities ranked in 2022 and 2021.
The data are collected to measure universities’ progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11, sustainable cities and communities. Universities are asked if they promote or allow telecommuting or remote working for employees as a matter of policy or standard practice, or offer a condensed working week to reduce employee commuting.
Data submissions for the THE Impact Rankings 2022 are based on remote working policies in 2020, meaning it is the first time it has been possible to examine the impact of the pandemic.
South America is the continent with the largest rise, with 37 of the 47 universities ranked in both years now encouraging remote working, compared with just 22 institutions in 2019, an increase of 68 per cent.
Brazil sees a particularly large increase, going from 42 per cent of the 26 universities ranked offering remote working in 2019, to 81 per cent in 2020.
In Mexico, the percentage has risen from 50 to 70, based on 10 universities. Chile also sees a rise from 50 to 83 per cent, although this is based on only six universities that were ranked in both years.
Outside of South America, the scope for remote working has increased significantly in Spain, with 89 per cent (24 of 27 universities) now offering the policy compared with 67 per cent (18 of 27) in 2019.
In the US, the rate increased from 91 to 100 per cent, based on data from 23 universities. In the UK, 100 per cent of the 29 universities ranked offered remote working both before and after the pandemic.
When ranking universities on their progress towards SDG 11, THE looks at the stewardship of resources as well as the university’s role in sustaining and preserving the heritage of communities. It examines institutions’ research on sustainability, their role as custodians of arts and heritage, and their internal approaches to sustainability.
Remote working policies are important for sustainability because travel is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions from the university sector and the option of remote working can help improve the diversity of academic staff.
The THE Impact Rankings assess universities against the UN’s SDGs. The 2022 tables include 1,524 institutions from 110 countries and territories.