Measure 1: Resources

How ‘Resources’ were measured and the results the 2015 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. The data for this variable are significantly better than in previous rankings (see sources in Appendix 1). For several countries approximations have been made for private expenditure using relative enrolment numbers and information on fees. In order to measure the contribution of tertiary education to a nation’s research effort we also include measures of expenditure on R&D in tertiary institutions. Thus our five measures of Resources and their weights are:

  • R1: (5%) Government expenditure on tertiary education institutions as a percentage of GDP, 2011. 
  • R2: (5%) Total expenditure on tertiary education institutions as a percentage of GDP, 2011.
  • R3: (5%) Annual expenditure per student (full-time equivalent) by tertiary education institutions at USD purchasing power prices, 2011.
  • R4: (2.5%) Expenditure in tertiary education institutions for research and development as a percentage of GDP, 2012. 
  • R5: (2.5%) Expenditure in tertiary education institutions for research and development per head of population at USD purchasing power prices, 2012. 


The highest ranked countries for Resources in the 2015 rankings are Denmark and Canada. Singapore has risen six places to third and is followed in rank order by Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, and the United States. Compared with the 2014 ranking the largest improvement has occurred for the Czech Republic, up ten places to 22nd following increases in both government and private spending on higher education. The improvement in the ranking of Taiwan-China reflects improved data on research expenditure. Romania has fallen seven places in the ranking on Resources and three countries have fallen five places: New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Canada has replaced the United States as the country with the largest total expenditure (public plus private) on higher education as a percentage of GDP. Resources per student, which includes research expenditure, are highest in Singapore, Canada and the United States. Denmark and Sweden continue to rank highest for research expenditure in tertiary institutions.