Measure 2: Environment

How ‘Environment’ was measured and the results the 2016 study produced.

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 competition between institutions, external monitoring of performance, and equality of  opportunity. The degree to which national systems possess these characteristics is measured by the results of three survey findings complemented by four quantitative measures: female participation among both students and staff, a measure of diversity of institutions in the system, and the quality of data on higher education. The weights used in constructing the diversity measure recognise that autonomy of public universities matters less if there is a large private sector.

The measures we use and their weights are:

  • E1: (1%) Proportion of female students in tertiary education, 2013. 
  • E2: (2%) Proportion of academic staff who are female in tertiary institutions, 2013. 
  • 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:
    • (4%) survey results for the policy and regulatory environment (see Appendix 2).
    • (4%) survey results for financial autonomy of public universities (see Appendix 2).
    • (2%) a measure of diversity of the system defined as
    • = 1 if less than 90 per cent of all tertiary students are enrolled in any one of the three OECD categories: public, government dependent private and independent private (modified to 0.5 if this does not also hold for university enrolments);
    • = 1.5 if between 50 and 90 per cent of students are enrolled in independent private institutions (percentage in all private institutions when OECD data not available);
    • = 0 if at least 90 per cent of students are enrolled in any one OECD category.
  • E5: (5%) Responses to WEF survey question (7-point scale): “how well does the educational system 

The top-ranked countries in the Environment module are the United States, Hong Kong SAR, Finland, New Zealand and the Netherlands, the same as in last year’s rankings.  Switzerland has risen nine places to eighth mainly due to the diversity measure now including all tertiary institutions, not just universities. Romania drops five places to 15thowing to a marked fall in its WEF-survey score. 

For the qualitative index (E4), the top two-ranked countries are Hong Kong SAR and the United States.  The Netherlands is third followed by Taiwan-China.

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 and Finland.