U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems

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

The U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems gives an overview of higher education systems across the world. Universitas 21 developed the Rankings as a benchmark for governments, education institutions and individuals. 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 of National Higher Education Systems was published in May 2012 by Universitas 21. Some 48 countries were ranked separately in four areas (Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output) and overall. The Rankings met a longstanding need to shift discussion from the existing rankings of the world’s best universities to the standing of the whole higher education system in each country.

In the 2013 Rankings report the four broad measures remain the same, but the country coverage has been extended to include Serbia and Saudi Arabia, bringing the total number of countries in this year’s report to 50. For several other countries, particularly India, Indonesia and Malaysia, there has been a marked improvement in the quality and timeliness of data.

There has also been a shift in the methodology between the 2012 and 2013 Rankings. In a world with greater emphasis on communication technologies, connectivity between individuals and institutions is heavily based on online interactions. In recognition of this, two new web-based measures have been included in the 2013 Connectivity variables. In the 2012 Rankings we gave a weight of only 10 per cent to Connectivity because of the limited range of the variables. In recognition of the improved coverage we have increased the weight by five percentage points to 15 per cent (and lowered that on Environment by the same amount).

The treatment of missing data has also been improved in the 2013 Rankings - the first quartile value is used to replace missing data in all cases. The use of first quartile values avoids distortions that occur when a variable has a high average value across countries for which data are available, thereby ensuring methodological consistency.

Overall, in the 2013 Universitas 21 Ranking of Higher Education Systems, the top five countries were found to be the United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and Denmark. 

More information, including the full 2013 and 2012 reports, a breakdown of the results and a commentary on the various measures used in these rankings can be found by clicking on "more information" below. 

2012 - 2013 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 and 2013 using our comparison tool:


2014 Report

The 2014 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems will be announced on this web page at 00:00 BST on Thursday 15 May.