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Ranking Reveals World's Top Countries for Higher Education

LONDON, May 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

New research into national education systems gives the first ranking of countries which are the 'best' at providing higher education.

The Universitas 21 Ranking was announced today (11 May 2012) at an event at Lund University in Sweden. Universitas 21, a leading global network of research universities, 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 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 (see full ranking in notes 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, the 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 percent of countries for international research collaboration. In all but eight countries at least 50 percent of students were female, the lowest being in India and Korea. In only five countries were there at least 50 percent female staff; the lowest being in Japan and Iran.

Lead author, Professor Ross Williams at the University of Melbourne, said: "In a globalised world, a strong higher education system is essential if a nation is to be economically competitive.

"While there are a number of well-regarded global rankings of individual institutions, these don't shed any light on the broader picture of how well a nation's system educates its students, the environment it provides for encouraging and supporting excellence. Students choose countries to study in as much as individual institutions, and the Universitas 21 Ranking offers clear data to support decision-making."

Jane Usherwood, Secretary General of Universitas 21, said: "More transparency and clarity is needed around the comparative strengths and qualities of national education systems around the world in order to encourage knowledge-sharing, collaboration and development of opportunities for students in all countries. We hope the Universitas 21 Ranking will become an established point of reference for policy-makers, education institutions and development bodies globally."

Universitas 21 is an international research network of 24 universities and colleges. Its membership works together to encourage international mobility and engagement between staff and students.

Notes for editors:

1. The Universitas 21 Ranking

For each group of measures the highest scoring country is given a score of 100 and all other countries are expressed as a percentage of the highest score. Further details can be found at

      1 States      100
      2 Sweden       84
      3 Canada       83
      4 Finland      82
      5 Denmark      81
      6 Switzerland  80
      7 Norway       78
      8 Australia    78
      9 Netherlands  77
     10 Kingdom      77
     11 Singapore    75
     12 Austria      74
     13 Belgium      74
     14 New Zealand  73
     15 France       71
     16 Ireland      70
     17 Germany      69
        Hong Kong
     18 SAR          67
     19 Israel       66
     20 Japan        64
     21 Taiwan       62
     22 Korea        60
     23 Portugal     60
     24 Spain        60
     25 Ukraine      59
     26 Republic     58
     27 Poland       56
     28 Slovenia     56
     29 Greece       55
     30 Italy        54
     31 Bulgaria     53
     32 Federation   52
     33 Romania      51
     34 Hungary      51
     35 Slovakia     51
     36 Malaysia     50
     37 Chile        49
     38 Argentina    49
     39 China        48
     40 Brazil       47
     41 Thailand     47
     42 Iran         46
     43 Mexico       45
     44 Croatia      45
     45 Turkey       44
     46 Africa       43
     47 Indonesia    37
     48 India        34

2. Universitas 21 members are: Australia: University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, University of Queensland; Canada: McGill University, University of British Columbia; Chile: Pontifical Catholic University of Chile; China: Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Hong Kong SAR: University of Hong Kong; India: University of Delhi; Ireland: University College Dublin; Japan: Waseda University; Mexico: Tecnológico de Monterrey; New Zealand: University of Auckland; Singapore: National University of Singapore; South Korea: Korea University; Sweden: Lund University; The Netherlands: University of Amsterdam; United Kingdom: University of Birmingham, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of Nottingham; United States of America: University of Connecticut, University of Virginia.

3. The research authors for the Universitas 21 Ranking project at the University of Melbourne are: Ross Williams, Gaetan De Rassenfosse, Paul Jensen, Simon Marginson. The steering group is: Dr Ying Cheng, Graduate School of Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Professor David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor, University of Nottingham; Professor Don Fisher, Department of Educational Studies, University of British Columbia; Professor Simon Marginson, Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne; Professor Ross Williams, Melbourne Institute, University of Melbourne.

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