2014 Education systems’ ranking by U21


Universitas 21 (U21) the leading global network of research universities has conveyed its third annual U21 ranking, that reveals world’s top countries for higher education including additional adjusted results, by taking each country’s level of economic development into account. U21 Ranking is the only one in the world that assesses the national higher education systems and meets a longstanding need to shift discussion from the ranking of the world’s best universities, to the best overall systems in each country. Developed as a benchmark for governments, education institutions and individuals it aims to highlight the importance of: 1. Creating a strong environment for higher education institutions, to contribute to economic and cultural development; 2. Providing a high-quality experience for students; 3. Helping institutions to compete for overseas applicants. The first Ranking report was published in May 2012, the second following in May 2013, whereas the results of the third were announced 15 May 2014 at the University of Glasgow, UK. The 2014 Ranking includes the same 50 countries as in the 2013 report, which have again been ranked separately in four areas (Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output) and overall. The research authors, based at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, looked at 24 measures across these four areas, allowing them to create a very detailed picture of the higher education system in each country. New for 2014, is the fact that this data has been compared against the values expected at each country’s level of economic development, to create a second and separate set of ranking results.

Overall Ranking Results

The top 10 ranked countries in 2014 are:

2014 2013

1 United States of America 1

2 Sweden 2

3 Canada 4

4 Denmark 5

5 Finland 6

6 Switzerland 3

7 Netherlands 7

8 United Kingdom 10

9 Australia 8

10 Singapore 9

This list contains the same countries as in the 2013 Ranking, but the order has changed a little.

GDP Adjusted Ranking Results

In this new auxiliary ranking, countries are scored on how they perform on each of the 24 measures, relative to countries at similar stages of economic development as measured by GDP per capita (using purchasing power parity exchange rates). This produces marked changes in the original ranking.

The top 10 ranked countries when using this approach are:

1 Sweden

2 Finland

3 Denmark

4 Serbia

5 New Zealand

6 United Kingdom

7 Canada

8 Portugal

9 China

10 Netherlands

As expected, the biggest changes occasioned by allowing for income levels occur at both extremes. Serbia, South Africa, India and China all rise by over 25 places in the rankings. Conversely, four high income countries (Singapore, Norway, the United States and Hong Kong SAR) significantly fall in the rankings. A noticeable feature is that several lower income countries show significant improvements in the Connectivity measure ranking, an activity that is likely to be most beneficial to economic growth.

Lead author, Professor Ross Williams at the University of Melbourne, stated: “The U21 rankings provide a benchmark that a country can use to evaluate the performance of its higher education system against the world’s best and against countries at similar levels of economic development. The 2014 rankings emphasise the important role of tertiary institutions in promoting knowledge transfer through connectivity within their own societies and internationally.”

Jane Usherwood, Universitas 21 Secretary General, commented: “Universitas 21 is delighted to support this important work, looking at systems of higher education, for this third year. There are many ways of looking at the performance of individual universities, and as many critics of the methodologies as those who use them.

The U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems is unique in that, that it looks at the context in which universities operate around the world. The 2014 ranking extends this approach by including measures of economic development – and that has a profound effect on the ranking of the national system by levelling out the playing field for comparison.

The full 2014 Ranking report and all data can be found on the U21 website, along with an interactive map containing a country-specific summary for each of the 50 countries included in the report:

Ranking report and data:

Interactive ranking map:

The site also contains a data comparison tool, which allows users to compare directly the overall ranking and individual measure results from all countries across 2012, 2013 and 2014. Data Comparison tool:

For further information please contact:

Lucy Smith, Media Manager for the U21 Rankings Project tel. +44 7825 055 535

Note to Editors: Universitas 21 is a network of 27 research-led universities around the world. It aims to promote and achieve collaboration, co-operation and work of a comprehensive nature, drawing on a strong bond of collegiality found between similarly-minded universities all of whom occupy a highly-regarded status in their respective global regions and among the global league tables. The membership comprises: University of Amsterdam, University of Auckland,University of Birmingham, University of British Columbia, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, University of Connecticut, University of Delhi, University College, Dublin, University of Edinburgh, Fudan University, University of Glasgow, University of Hong Kong, University of Johannesburg, Korea University, Lund University, University of Maryland, McGill University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, University of Nottingham, The Ohio State, University, University of Queensland, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, National University of Singapore, Tecnológico de Monterrey, University of Virginia, Waseda University.

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