U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems

A ranking of higher education systems based on resources, environment, connectivity and output.

The Universitas 21 Ranking is the only one in the world to assess national higher education systems, and meets a long-standing need to shift discussion from the ranking of the world’s best universities, to the best overall systems in each country. U21 developed the Rankings as a benchmark for governments, education institutions and individuals, and the project 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.

The first Ranking report was published in May 2012 and this is the fourth year of reporting. The 2016 report includes the same 50 countries as in the 2015 report, which have again been ranked separately in four areas (Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output) and overall. The 2016 report also looks at Productivity and Drivers of Research, examing the relationship between inputs (Resources and Environment) and outcomes (Output and Connectivity).

The research authors, based at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, looked at 25 measures across these four areas, allowing them to create a very detailed picture of the higher education system in each country.

2016 Overall Results Summary

The main ranking compares a country’s performance against the best in the world on each measure. Overall, the top 10 countries in rank order are: the United States, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Australia. This list contains the same countries as in the 2014 Ranking, but the order has changed a little.

2016 Adjusted Overall Results Summary

In this auxiliary ranking, introduced in 2014, countries are scored on how they perform on each of the 25 measures relative to countries at similar stages of economic development as measured by GDP per capita. Using this approach, the top 10 countries using the adjusted data are, in rank order: the United Kingdom, Serbia, Denmark, Sweden, China, Finland, South Africa, Portugal, Canada, and New Zealand and South Africa. Using this adjustment, a number of lower income countries rise up markedly in the rankings: South Africa to 7th, China to 6th and India to 15th.


More information, including the full 2016 report, a breakdown of the results and a commentary on the various measures used in these rankings can be found by clicking on the "more information" button at the very bottom of this page. The 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 reports are also available to download via this link.


Interactive Map with Ranking Summaries

Use this page to find a short overview of the findings for each of the 50 countries assessed in the 2016 report: www.universitas21.com/ranking/map

2012 - 2016 Data Comparison Tool

You can directly compare the both the overall ranking and also the individual measures of data taken from all countries involved in the U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 sing our comparison tool: www.universitas21.com/rankingcomparison