European countries dominate top HE ranking

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11 mei 2012 | 7 European countries make it into the top 10 of offering the best higher education. United States remains the benchmark at the top of the ranking. Analysis shows that HE excellence requires significant investments and that neighboring countries cross-fertilize one another.

What countries are most successful in providing the best highereducation? Common rankings like those of QS, Times Higher Education and ARWU only lookat individual institutes and are dominated by Anglo-Americanuniversities. A new ranking sponsored by the university networkUniversitas 21 took a broader view and came up with some surprisinginsights.

7 European countries in the top 10

The report evaluated countries on the basis of 23variables. 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 educatedworkforce which meets labour market needs), 3.) connectivity(international networks and collaboration which protects a systemagainst insularity) and 4.) environment (government policy andregulation, diversity and participation opportunities).

Retrieved results cast a favorable light on higher education inEurope. 7 out of the top 10 nations are situated in Europe with anespecially 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 universitiesrankings, United States tops of the ranking while Australia and UKfollow on place 8 and 10.

Ranking of Countries (Score)

  1. United States (100)
  2. Sweden (83.6)
  3. Canada (82.8)
  4. Finland (82.0)
  5. Denmark (81.0)
  6. Switzerland (80.3)
  7. Norway (78.0)
  8. Australia (77.8)
  9. the Netherlands (77.4)
  10. United Kingdom (76.8)

Countries were furthermore ranked within the individualcategories. There, Canada, Denmark and Sweden fare particularlywell in total resources allocated. The policy and diversityenvironment for higher education is most favorable in theNetherlands, New Zealand and the United States.

Regarding international connectivity Austria, Singapore andSwitzerland top of the ranking. Overall output is by far thehighest in the United States with the United Kingdom and Canadacoming in second and third. As such the Universitas 21 givesinsight as to why Anglo-American institutions dominated commonuniversity rankings. Their research output outpaces other countrieson an aggregate level.

Higher education comes at a price

The report highlights that good higher education comes at aprice. “There is a strong relationship between resources andoutput: of the top eight countries in output, only the UK andAustralia are not in the top eight for resources.”

Furthermore it appears that neighboring have a great influenceon each other’s higher education system. The researchers state that”there is some evidence of groupings of neighbouring countries. Thefour Nordic countries are all in the top seven. It would seem thatwhile many countries may feel they cannot hope to match the highereducation system in the United States, they do want to match thatof their neighbours.

Full Press Statement

New research into national education systems gives the firstranking of countries and territories which are the ‘best’ atproviding higher education.

Universitas 21 has developed the ranking as a benchmark forgovernments, education institutions and individuals. It aims tohighlight the importance of creating a strong environment forhigher education institutions to contribute to economic andcultural development, provide a high-quality experience forstudents and help institutions compete for overseas applicants.

Research authors at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economicand Social Research, University of Melbourne, looked at the mostrecent data from 48 countries and territories across 20 differentmeasures. 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 educatedworkforce which meets labour market needs), connectivity(international networks and collaboration which protects a systemagainst insularity) and environment (government policy andregulation, diversity and participation opportunities). Populationsize is accounted for in the calculations.

Overall, in the Universitas 21 Ranking of higher educationsystems, 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 ishighest in Finland, Norway and Denmark, but when privateexpenditure is added in funding is highest in the United States,Korea, Canada and Chile. Investment in Research and Development ishighest in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. The United Statesdominates the total output of research journal articles, but Swedenis the biggest producer of articles per head of population. Thenations whose research has the greatest impact  areSwitzerland, the Netherlands, the United States, United Kingdom andDenmark. While the United States and United Kingdom have theworld’s top institutions in rankings, the depth of world classhigher education institutions per head of population is best inSwitzerland, Sweden, Israel and Denmark.

The highest participation rates in higher education are inKorea, Finland, Greece, United States, Canada and Slovenia. Thecountries with the largest proportion of workers with a higherlevel education are Russia, Canada, Israel, United States, Ukraine,Taiwan and Australia. Finland, Denmark, Singapore, Norway and Japanhave the highest ratio of researchers in the economy.

International students form the highest proportions of totalstudent numbers in Australia, Singapore, Austria, United Kingdomand Switzerland. International research collaboration is mostprominent in Indonesia, Switzerland, Hong Kong SAR, Denmark,Belgium and Austria.   China, India, Japan and the UnitedStates rank in the bottom 25 per cent of countries forinternational research collaboration. In all but eight countries atleast 50 per cent of students were female, the lowest being inIndia and Korea. In only five countries were there at least 50 percent female staff; the lowest being in Japan and Iran.

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