Measure 1: Resources

How ‘Resources’ were measured and the results the 2016 study produced.

A necessary condition for a well-performing higher education system is that it is adequately resourced, whether by government or the private sector.   One measure is expenditure by tertiary institutions as a share of GDP.   But for low income countries, especially those with a large student-age population, a high share of GDP may not translate into high expenditure per student, so we also include the latter. In the absence of quality of teaching measures that are comparable across countries, the measure of resources per student in part serves as a proxy.  In order to measure the contribution of tertiary education to a nation’s research effort we include measures of expenditure on R&D in tertiary institutions.  In summary, our five measures of resources and their weights are: 

  • R1: (5%) Government expenditure on tertiary education institutions as a percentage of GDP, 2012. 
  • R2: (5%) Total expenditure on tertiary education institutions as a percentage of GDP, 2012.
  • R3: (5%) Annual expenditure per student (full-time equivalent) by tertiary education institutions at USD purchasing power prices, 2012.
  • R4: (2.5%) Expenditure in tertiary education institutions for research and development as a percentage of GDP, 2013. 
  • R5: (2.5%) Expenditure in tertiary education institutions for research and development per head of population at USD purchasing power prices, 2013. 

Expenditure financed by government averages 1.13 per cent of GDP and total expenditure 1.56, both almost the same as in the 2015 rankings.  The highest ranked countries for resources in the 2016 rankings are Denmark, Singapore, the United States, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland, in that order.  

Compared with the 2015 U21 rankings, the largest improvers are the United Kingdom, which rises from 26th to 12th as a result of the  OECD correction for government expenditure, and Turkey, which rises from 43rd to 29th following the availability of much more recent data.  New Zealand has risen from 27th to 18th following increases in both public and private expenditure. Significant falls occurred for Hungary (down six places to 43rd) and Ireland (down seven places to 24th).

The countries with the largest total expenditure (public plus private) on higher education as a percentage of GDP are the United States, Chile, Saudi Arabia and Canada. Resources per student, which includes research expenditure, are highest in Singapore, the United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland continue to rank highest for research expenditure in tertiary institutions: for Denmark it is nearly one per cent of GDP, three times the average for all 50 countries.