Date posted: December 5, 2012

This project was approved at the May 2011Presidents’ Meeting of Universitas 21. The results presented here represent an initial attempt to rate national systems of higher education. We have elected to include a relatively large number of countries (48 in total) covering different stages of economic development. This has widened the value of the exercise, although it has made the data collection more complicated. We hope that publication of the rankings will encourage improvements in data, both for included countries and to enable us to extend the range of countries in future updates.

A nation’s economic development depends crucially on the presence of an educated and skilled workforce and on technological improvements that raise productivity. The higher education sector contributes to both these needs: it educates and trains; it undertakes pure and applied research.

Furthermore, in a globalised world, a quality higher education system that is well-connected internationally facilitates the introduction of new ideas, and fosters trade and other links with foreign countries, through the movement of students and researchers across national frontiers.

Given the importance of higher education, a nation needs a comprehensive set of indicators in order to evaluate the quality and worth of its higher education system. A good higher education system is well-resourced and operates in a favourable regulatory environment. Domestic and international connectivity are also important. The success of the system is measured by output variables such as research performance, participation rates and employment. We use such indicators to derive a ranking of national higher education systems.

The measures are grouped under four main headings: Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output.

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