U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems

A ranking of higher education systems based on resources, environment, connectivity and output.

The Universitas 21 Ranking is the only one in the world to assess national higher education systems, and meets a longstanding need to shift discussion from the ranking of the world’s best universities, to the best overall systems in each country. U21 developed the Rankings as a benchmark for governments, education institutions and individuals, and the project aims to highlight the importance of creating a strong environment for higher education institutions to contribute to economic and cultural development, provide a high-quality experience for students, and help institutions compete for overseas applicants.

The first Ranking report was published in May 2012, with a second following in May 2013. The results of the third annual Universitas 21 Ranking were announced on 15 May 2014. The 2014 report includes the same 50 countries as in the 2013 report, which have again been ranked separately in four areas (Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output) and overall. The research authors, based at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, looked at 24 measures across these four areas, allowing them to create a very detailed picture of the higher education system in each country. New for 2014, this data has also been compared against the values expected at each country’s level of economic development, to create a second and separate set of ranking results.

The 2014 Universitas 21 ranking of national systems retains the methodology of the 2013 rankings, but the Connectivity component has been extended by including measures of interaction with business and industry.

2014 Overall Results Summary
The main ranking compares a country’s performance against the best in the world on each measure. Overall, the top 10 countries in rank order are: the United States, Sweden, Canada and Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore. This list contains the same countries as in the 2013 Ranking, but the order has changed a little. The relative nature of the Rankings is exempli?ed by Switzerland, which has fallen three places even though its score remained constant. The largest changes in rankings since last year are an improvement of eight places by China, a rise of ?ve places for Hungary, and a fall of seven places for Ukraine.

2014 Adjusted Overall Results Summary
In this new auxiliary ranking, countries are scored on how they perform on each of the 24 measures relative to countries at similar stages of economic development as measured by GDP per capita. Using this approach, the top 10 countries using the adjusted data are, in rank order: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Serbia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Portugal and the Netherlands. As expected, the biggest changes occasioned by allowing for income levels occur at both extremes. Serbia, South Africa, India and China all rise by over 25 places in the rankings. Conversely, four high income countries (Singapore, Norway, the United States and Hong Kong SAR) fall markedly in the rankings. A noticeable feature is that several lower income countries show significant improvements in the Connectivity measure ranking, an activity that is likely to be most beneficial to economic growth.

More information, including the full 2014 report, a breakdown of the results and a commentary on the various measures used in these rankings can be found by clicking on the "more information" button at the very bottom of this pageThe 2012 and 2013 reports are also available to download via this link.

2014 Interactive Map with Ranking Summaries
Use this page to find a short overview of the findings for each of the 50 countries assessed in the 2014 report:


2012 - 2014 Data Comparison Tool
You can directly compare the both the overall ranking and also the individual measures of data taken from all countries involved in the U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems in 2012, 2013 and 2014 using our comparison tool:


Report author, Professor Ross Williams, provides an overview of the 2014 U21 Ranking and its results in the video clip below: