Global achievers: the nations that really rate in higher education

Completely over-rankings? Focus people! Universitas 21 has just published one that puts performance in perspective

The eighth annual Universitas 21 ranking of national higher education systems puts the US in the global top spot followed by Switzerland, the UK, Sweden and Denmark, unchanged from last year. In the rest of the world top-ten Canada moves up two places to sixth, as does Singapore to seventh and Australia to eighth. Finland and Netherlands make up the ten leading nations, both improving 3 places.

A team led by the University of Melbourne’s Ross Williams and Anne Leahy produces the report for the 27-member U21 alliance, Australian members are the universities of Queensland, Melbourne and UNSW.

This is super-serious stuff, based on a mass of hard data moderated by policy expertise – the next time somebody tells you Serbia outrates Australia on output check Williams and Leahy.*

Their rankings are based on an anthology of attributes, presented both as raw scores and adjusted for GDP, and are grouped in four categories:

Resources:  Australia rates 12th,  “pulled down by the low ranking (37th) for government expenditure on higher education, although “the official data do not reflect the full cost of the student loans scheme.”  (But guess which bit of this will not get quoted)

Policy environment: second in world for facilitating the “efficient use” of resources

Connectivity: Australia rates 13th for the tertiary sector’s connections with society and international education and research links. “Australia ranks fifth on the share of international students, but first on master’s degree enrolments. Links with the private sector are at average levels: 27th for joint publications with industry and 21st for knowledge transfer.”

Output: fourth globally for research volume and impact, plus study participation rate for the first five post-compulsory education years, per centage of tertiary qualified working-age people and researchers per million inhabitants.

* Ahem, adjusted for GDP in fact we do, the Serbs rate one in the world on outputs and Australia s eight.


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education