UK is a knockout performer on pound-for-pound basis

GDP-adjusted ranking of global higher education systems puts British system near top

May 21, 2015

 

Source: Rex

Packing a punch: the UK does well because it has ‘stellar research outputs’ and is ‘exceptionally strong in connectivity’

The UK’s university system is the second best in the world when countries’ average incomes are taken into account – outperforming Denmark, Sweden and Finland – according to the latest edition of an international ranking.

The 2015 Universitas 21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems, published on 21 May, also shows that overall the UK has remained at eighth place in the world, beating Australia and Singapore for a second year running.

The ranking of 50 countries compares 25 measures across four weighted areas: spending by the government and the private sector on teaching and research; the number of research articles produced and the quality of the top institutions; connections with businesses and international institutions; and government policy and the regulatory environment.

For a second year, Universitas 21, a group of research-intensive universities from across the world, has also produced an alternative ranking that looks at whether a country does better or worse on these measures than would be expected based on the purchasing power of an average citizen.

On this, the UK punches above its weight. It has climbed four places since last year to claim second position. In doing so, it has overtaken last year’s number one nation in the table, Sweden, which is now in fourth place, and it sits 13 places above the US.

Simon Marginson, professor of international higher education at the UCL Institute of Education, explained that the UK “does very well in this measure” because it has “stellar research outputs” and is “exceptionally strong in connectivity” despite its per capita economic output not being very high.

“The UK research system, with most of its output carried out by the top 20 or so research universities, delivers fantastic value for money overall,” he said.

“The successive RAEs [research assessment exercises] and the REF [research excellence framework] have played a key role in building concentrated research performance in the Russell Group over time, within a system that is modestly funded overall, [scoring] only 26th out of 50 countries in resources.”

The Serbian anomaly

Serbia takes the top spot in the income-adjusted ranking. Its rise from fourth in last year’s list was driven by high scores for output and resources devoted to higher education.

However, Professor Marginson warned that Serbia’s prominence was “idiosyncratic” and a consequence of its very low per capita GDP for a European country and of its concentration of research resources and talent at the University of Belgrade, which boosts its score on the output measures.

Meanwhile, Switzerland and South Africa have both made their top 10 debuts in the income-adjusted list, ranking eighth and 10th place respectively.

Switzerland has also performed well in the overall ranking, rising from sixth to second place. Some of that upward momentum can be attributed to changes in methodology, which this year for the first time included measures of the financial autonomy of public universities.

The US still tops the Universitas 21 table when not adjusted for per capita economic output– where it has been since the list began in 2012.

ellie.bothwell@tesglobal.com


National powers: the best for system strength

Universitas 21 Ranking 2015 top 50: main ranking

2015 rank2014 rankCountry
1 1 United States
2 6 Switzerland
3 3 Denmark
4 5 Finland
5 2 Sweden
6 3 Canada
7 7 Netherlands
8 8 United Kingdom
9 10 Singapore
10 9 Australia
11 13 Belgium
12 11 Norway
13 12 Austria
14 14 Germany
15 15 Hong Kong SAR
16 16 New Zealand
17 18 France
18 17 Ireland
19 19 Israel
20 20 Japan
21 22 Taiwan-China
22 21 Korea
23 26 Czech Republic
24 23 Spain
25 24 Portugal
26 25 Slovenia
27 28 Malaysia
28 30 Saudi Arabia
29 27 Italy
30 29 Hungary
31 33 Chile
32 31 Poland
33 35 Russian Federation
34 35 China
35 32 Greece
36 37 Slovakia
37 34 Serbia
38 41 Argentina
39 45 South Africa
40 38 Brazil
41 42 Ukraine
42 39 Romania
43 40 Bulgaria
44 46 Mexico
45 44 Croatia
46 42 Thailand
47 49 Iran
48 48 Indonesia
49 47 Turkey
50 50 India


Universitas 21 Ranking 2015 top 50: adjusted for average incomes

2015 rank2014 rankCountry
1 4 Serbia
2 6 United Kingdom
3 3 Denmark
4 1 Sweden
5 2 Finland
6 8 Portugal
7 7 Canada
8 11 Switzerland
9 5 New Zealand
10 17 South Africa
11 10 Netherlands
12 14 Belgium
13 12 Australia
14 13 Israel
15 15 United States
16 9 China
17 16 Hungary
18 23 India
19 28 Czech Republic
20 18 Brazil
21 22 Malaysia
22 19 Austria
23 31 Singapore
24 26 Slovenia
25 21 France
26 20 Germany
27 25 Spain
28 33 Poland
29 27 Norway
30 24 Ireland
31 39 Hong Kong SAR
32 29 Greece
33 30 Korea
34 37 Ukraine
35 34 Japan
36 32 Taiwan-China
37 38 Chile
38 46 Iran
39 43 Italy
40 42 Romania
41 45 Turkey
42 41 Argentina
43 36 Russian Federation
44 34 Croatia
45 44 Mexico
46 49 Slovakia
47 48 Bulgaria
48 40 Thailand
49 47 Saudi Arabia
50 50 Indonesia


Visit the Universitas 21 site

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