What countries are most successful in providing the best higher education? Common rankings like those of QS, Times Higher Education and ARWU only look at individual institutes and are dominated by Anglo-American universities. A new ranking sponsored by the university network Universitas 21 took a broader view and came up with some surprising insights.
7 European countries in the top 10
The report evaluated countries on the basis of 23 variables. These were divided into four categories, namely 1.) resources (investment by government and private sector), 2.) output (research and its impact, as well as the production of an educated workforce which meets labour market needs), 3.) connectivity (international networks and collaboration which protects a system against insularity) and 4.) environment (government policy and regulation, diversity and participation opportunities).
Retrieved results cast a favorable light on higher education in Europe. 7 out of the top 10 nations are situated in Europe with an especially strong presence of the Nordic countries (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway). With Switzerland and the Netherlands, two smaller states also made it into the top 10. As in universities rankings, United States tops of the ranking while Australia and UK follow on place 8 and 10.
Ranking of Countries (Score)
Countries were furthermore ranked within the individual categories. There, Canada, Denmark and Sweden fare particularly well in total resources allocated. The policy and diversity environment for higher education is most favorable in the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States.
Regarding international connectivity Austria, Singapore and Switzerland top of the ranking. Overall output is by far the highest in the United States with the United Kingdom and Canada coming in second and third. As such the Universitas 21 gives insight as to why Anglo-American institutions dominated common university rankings. Their research output outpaces other countries on an aggregate level.
Higher education comes at a price
The report highlights that good higher education comes at a price. "There is a strong relationship between resources and output: of the top eight countries in output, only the UK and Australia are not in the top eight for resources."
Furthermore it appears that neighboring have a great influence on each other's higher education system. The researchers state that "there is some evidence of groupings of neighbouring countries. The four Nordic countries are all in the top seven. It would seem that while many countries may feel they cannot hope to match the higher education system in the United States, they do want to match that of their neighbours.
Full Press Statement
New research into national education systems gives the first ranking of countries and territories which are the 'best' at providing higher education.
Universitas 21 has developed the ranking as a benchmark for governments, education institutions and individuals. It aims 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 range of measures is 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). Population size is accounted for in the calculations.
Overall, in the Universitas 21 Ranking of higher education systems, the top five were found to be the United States, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Denmark. Further details can be found under "more information" below.
Government funding of higher education as a percentage of GDP is highest in Finland, Norway and Denmark, but when private expenditure is added in funding is highest in the United States, Korea, Canada and Chile. Investment in Research and Development is highest in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. The United States dominates the total output of research journal articles, but Sweden is the biggest producer of articles per head of population. The nations whose research has the greatest impact are Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United States, United Kingdom and Denmark. While the United States and United Kingdom have the world's top institutions in rankings, the depth of world class higher education institutions per head of population is best in Switzerland, Sweden, Israel and Denmark.
The highest participation rates in higher education are in 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. 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.