United Nations University

United Nations University

The United Nations University (UNU) is a global think tank and postgraduate teaching organisation established in 1972. UNU encompasses 13 institutes located in 12 countries around the world and is headquartered in Japan. The mission of UNU is to contribute, through collaborative research and education, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems of human survival, development, and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations, its Peoples, and Member States.

In carrying out this mission, the UNU works with leading universities and research institutes in UN Member States, functioning as a bridge between the international academic community and the United Nations system.

UNU became observers of UNEG in 2022. 






Evaluation Function Snapshot Independence Agenda Setting & Evaluation Planning Quality Assurance Use of Evaluation Joint Evaluation

Evaluation Function

As the think tank and academic arm of the United Nations, evaluation has always been an important consideration at UNU. The University’s activities are evaluated and regulated through internal and external organisational performance systems at three levels: UNU-wide; institute level; and personnel-level. 

UNU-wide organisational performance is evaluated through external evaluations. UNU-wide external evaluations are organised and overseen by the Rectorate under terms of reference approved by the the University’s governing board, the UNU Council. External evaluators are procured based on the goals and specific areas of evaluation defined by the terms of reference. Final reports by external evaluators are structured to provide the UNU Council and Rector with specific advice and suggestions for improving the functioning of the University.  

Aside from UNU-wide external evaluations, UNU also undergoes external audits annually by the United Nations Board of Auditors, and internal audits and advisory services carried out by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services. 

Institute level performance is assessed through regular external evaluations following a minimum of criteria as defined by UNU’s model ToR. Evaluation reports are subsequently submitted both to the Institute Board/Advisory Committee and to the UNU Council for consideration and appropriate action. 

Additionally, Institute performance is monitored and assessed by the UNU Rector as well as the relevant Institute Board/Advisory Committee, which for example approves a minimum of required key performance indicators (‘benchmarks and indicators’) and monitors progress and the validity of the KPIs on an annual basis. 


Evaluation Policy:

UNU Organisational Performance Policy

UNU Organisational Performance Handbook


Ensure the quality of research, capacity building, and teaching activities. 

Human Resources: 

Evaluators: project managers with evaluation responsibilities: 2 

Support staff: 1-2

Evaluations produced per year:

                        On average, 2 per year.

Key resources:

UNU Charter

UNU-wide Strategic Plan

Annual Reports of UNU as well as Institute-specific Annual Reports


UNU-wide external evaluations are conducted by qualified external evaluators following the terms of reference approved by the UNU Council. The process ensures that evaluation priorities adhere to the overarching objectives set out by the UNU-wide Strategic Plan and the UNU Charter. Evaluation results and suggestions for improvements produced by the external evaluators are independent from the influence of UNU management structure. 

Agenda Setting & Evaluation Planning

UNU-wide performance evaluations

The UNU-wide Strategic Plan provides the overarching objectives and principles guiding the work of the University across its institutes. Based on the UNU Charter and the University’s mission, the UNU-wide Strategic Plan allows each institute to build on overarching guiding principles and tailor them to their specific context.  UNU-wide external evaluations aim to examine the relevance, effectiveness, and impact of UNU’s activities in relation to the objectives outlined in the latest UNU-wide Strategic Plan, the UNU Charter, and the latest UNU Council sessionsUNU-wide external evaluations are typically conducted once every 10 years. 

Institute-level performance evaluations:

Taking the overarching UNU strategy into account and tailoring it to institute specific contexts, Institute Strategic Plansprovide the overall objectives, principles, and priorities that guide the work of each institute.  External evaluations (also referred to as “reviews”) of UNU institutes assess the performance of the institute, including the full range of institute activities or selected areas of work, based on the overarching goals and targets outlined in the latest Institute Strategic Plans, the Institute statutes and the UNU-wide Strategic Plan. Institute-level external evaluations are typically conducted every 5 years for each UNU institute.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance within the evaluation function is provided by internal peer reviews, with official reviews conducted by the head of the University or institutes (i.e., Rector, Director, etc.). UNU policy mandates that evaluation teams are comprised of 3‒4 members (2 at minimum) with strong track records in their field of expertise. They should not have any conflict of interest that could interfere with the fulfilment of their role as an independent, external evaluator for the purpose of the evaluation exercise. 

Use of Evaluation

For UNU-wide performance evaluations, the Rector reports to the UNU Council on progress made in implementing the evaluation report recommendations. The recommendations arising from the evaluation are also considered in drafting future UNU Strategic Plans. 

For institute-level performance evaluations, the Director drafts a management response to the report, indicating the institute’s views on the recommendations, and how these will be implemented. Following a review of the draft management response, the Rectorate may agree, or issue an additional response to the evaluation. The evaluation results are discussed in-depth by the respective Institute International Advisory Board as well as by the UNU Council (Governing Board) upon their release and approx. 6 months later, to discuss the implementation of the recommendations and progress made at the Institute.

Joint Evaluation

To date, UNU has not taken part in joint evaluations, but it regularly contributes to joint reviews and research pieces together with UN sister agencies.

UNEG Members

Nicolas du Bois

Project Manager, UNU

Fact Sheet