Measure 2: Environment

How ‘Environment’ was measured and the results the 2017 study produced.

Environment (weight of 20%)

A consensus is emerging that for a quality higher education system institutions need considerable autonomy in areas such as budgets and degree offerings, but there also needs to be appropriate diversity, competition between institutions and external monitoring of performance. The degree to which national systems possess these characteristics is measured by the results of three survey findings complemented by four quantitative measures.

The measures we use and their weights are:

  • E1: (1%) Proportion of female students in tertiary education, 2014. 
  • E2: (2%) Proportion of academic staff who are female in tertiary institutions, 2014. 
  • E3: (2%) A rating for data quality. For each quantitative series, the value is 2 if the data are available for the exact definition of the variable; 1 if some data are available which relate to the variable but some informed adjustment is required; and 0 otherwise. 
  • E4: (10%) Qualitative measure of the policy environment comprising:
  • E4.1 (2%) Diversity of the system comprising two components of equal weight: the percentage of tertiary students enrolled in private institutions (capped at 50 per cent) and the percentage of students enrolled in ISCED level 5 courses.
  • E4.2 (4%) Survey results for the policy and regulatory environment (see Appendix 2).
  • E4.3 (4%) Survey results for the financial autonomy of public universities ((see Appendix 2) 
  • E5: (5%) Responses to WEF survey question (7-point scale): “how well does the educational 
  • system in your country meet the needs of a competitive economy?”.


The top-ranked countries in the Environment module are the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong-SAR. The new wider definition of diversity has led to some marked changes in rank: Canada has risen 14 places to 20th whereas he Czech Republic has fallen 13 places to 33rd . Israel has risen 14 places to 18th owing to both the new measure of diversity and an improvement in the response of business as measured by the WEF survey (E5). Romania has fallen to 30th owing to both the new measure of diversity and a fall in the WEF survey score.
For the qualitative index (E4), the top-ranked countries are the United States, Australia, Hong Kong-SAR, New Zealand, Taiwan-China and the United Kingdom.

Only in four countries for which data are available does the percentage of female staff in tertiary institutions exceed 50 per cent: Finland, Malaysia, Thailand and Russia. Business, as measured by the WEF survey, ranks the national education systems most highly in Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, Belgium and Ireland.