What Country Has the Best Higher Education System?

The United States' higher education system is commonly considered the best in the world, and a new study concludes that's true. Universitas 21, a global network of research universities, recently released its official rankings based on the results of a year-long study.

The study’s authors examined education systems in 48 nations around the world, relying on four measures: resources (investment by government and private sector); output (the amount of research schools produce and their impact); connectivity (how well they collaborate with other nations); and environment (campus diversity and breadth of opportunities). The researchers then adjusted the data for population. Here are the top 10 nations:

The United States' strong performance was driven largely by its total output of research journal articles, the measure that comprised 40 percent of the ranking. Examining the categories of resources and connectivity reveals room to grow. Government funding of higher education per GDP is highest in Finland, Norway and Denmark. American universities are forced to rely on private funding more than other nations do, the researchers found. And when it comes to international research collaboration, the United States is at the bottom of the pack, along with China, India and Japan.

The good news is that the majority of countries earn high marks when it comes to learning environment. In all but eight countries, at least half of students are women—the lowest percentages are in India and Korea. But when it comes to gender equity in university staff, few nations fare as well: Just five have gender parity on the faculty, with the lowest numbers in Japan and Iran.

Universitas 21 says it hope the rankings will serve as a benchmark for governments, institutions, and individuals, highlighting the importance of creating strong higher education systems around the globe.


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