U21 Rankings of National Higher Education Systems 2012

10 May 2012
U21 has published new research into national education systems gives the first ranking of countries which are the ‘best’ at providing higher education.

The Universitas 21 ranking of national higher education systems has been developed 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.

Research authors at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, looked at the most recent data from 48 countries and territories across 20 different measures. The measures are grouped under four headings: resources (investment by government and private sector), output (research and its impact, as well as the production of an educated workforce which meets labour market needs), connectivity (international networks and collaboration which protects a system against insularity) and environment (government policy and regulation, diversity and participation opportunities). It also takes population size into account and produces some interesting results.

Overall, the top five countries, nominally providing the 'best' higher education were found to be the United States, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Denmark.  However, broken down into the smaller sections, it was interesting to see that the US, traditionally seen as a country with one of the strongest education systems, did not always hit the top spot.  Government funding of higher education as a percentage of GDP is highest in Finland, Norway and Denmark.  Taking private expenditure into account changed this significantly: on that measure  funding is highest in the United States, South Korea, Canada and Chile, unsurprising, given the structure in these counties.

Some other interesting findings showed that investment in Research and Development is highest in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.  Unsurprisingly, the United States dominates the total output of research journal articles, but when viewed as a percentage of articles per head of population, Sweden is top of the ranking. 

The highest participation rates in higher education are in South Korea, Finland, Greece, United States, Canada and Slovenia. The countries with the largest proportion of workers with a higher level education are Russia, Canada, Israel, United States, Ukraine, Taiwan and Australia. Finland, Denmark, Singapore, Norway and Japan have the highest ratio of researchers in the economy.

International students form the highest proportions of total student numbers in Australia, Singapore, Austria, United Kingdom and Switzerland, yet international research collaboration is most prominent in Indonesia, Switzerland, Hong Kong SAR, Denmark, Belgium and Austria.  China, India. Japan and the United States rank in the bottom 25 per cent of countries for international research collaboration. In all but eight countries at least 50 per cent of students were female, the lowest being in India and Korea. In only five countries were there at least 50 per cent female staff; the lowest being in Japan and Iran.

The full report can be downloaded below, or click on the link below for further details, data and breakdown of results.