Overall 2017 Ranking Scores

A summary of the overall 2017 ranking scores.

Overall Ranking

Using weights of 40 per cent on Output and 20 per cent on each of the other three modules, the top five countries, in order, are the United States, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden. The only change from the 2016 rankings is that Denmark and the United Kingdom have swapped positions. The next five countries are Singapore (up two to sixth), Canada (up two to seventh), the Netherlands (down one to eighth), Finland (down three to ninth) and Australia unchanged at tenth.

Systems evolve slowly over time. Compared with the 2016 rankings, for 33 of our 50 countries the rank change was at most one. The largest changes have been Ukraine, up seven places to 35th, and Turkey, up five places to 40th. The largest fall in rank is Brazil: down four places to 42nd. 


Annual changes in the performance of national systems of higher education are likely to be modest, at least in an upward direction. While a system can face significant deterioration in a short period of time due to factors such as political disturbances, major improvement will normally take a few years. It is therefore instructive to use our time-series of rankings to examine trends over several years. We do this by comparing the results for the Output module over the last five rankings: 2013 to 2017. However, the changes reflect a longer period because in the 2013 and 2014 rankings we used a five-year average for the three research measures (O1, O2, O3). The Output model is chosen because the variables included have remained the same, apart from that just mentioned, and the data quality has always been good. However, modest weight changes over the period exert some effect.

The countries showing the largest improvement have been Saudi Arabia (up 12 places) and Malaysia (up 7 places). Both countries have in recent years devoted considerable additional resources to higher education. The other noticeable improvers have been Singapore, South Africa and Russia (all up six places) and China (up five places). Australia, Croatia and Denmark have all improved four places. Ukraine, not surprisingly given its political difficulties, shows the largest fall, down ten places. New Zealand is down six places; Bulgaria and Romania down five. Six countries have fallen by four ranks: Canada, Finland, Germany, Slovenia, Taiwan-China, and Turkey. These changes of course reflect relative system performance, not absolute or necessarily institutional performance. This is well illustrated by the fall in New Zealand’s rank which is due primarily to falls in the ranks for qualification of the workforce (O7) and number of researchers (O8). The increase in the percentage of the population aged 25-64 years with a tertiary qualification has not matched the increase of nine percentage points in the median value for our 50 countries.