Switzerland sits second on the table with 86.9 points, behind the US’s 100. The UK climbed from fourth place to third this year, swapping positions with Denmark which dropped down one spot.
Sweden remained in fifth place in the table, and Singapore climbed two places to sixth.
“Both countries have in recent years devoted considerable additional resources to higher education”
Universitas 21 ranks the higher education systems based on 25 metrics, under four categories: resources, environment, connectivity and output.
The rankings has added three new measures this year, which incorporate recognising research, teaching and connectivity, referred to as the ‘triple helix’ of activity undertaken at tertiary education institutions.
Ross Williams, a professor at the University of Melbourne and lead author of the report, said there is a correlation between the position of higher education systems in the rankings and the strength of their government policy.
“It is noticeable that in the countries where the higher education sector has shown the largest improvements in output over the six years of our ranking, government policy has been well thought out, congruent with national aims, and implemented on a consistent basis over an extended period of time,” he said.
Fifty countries’ higher education systems are included in the rankings, which are now in their sixth year.
“The 2017 U21 rankings show further enhancement in their approach to data collection and analysis, which allow countries to benchmark performance over a range of attributes, comparing strengths and challenges in different areas of their higher educational activities,” said Bairbre Redmond, provost of U21.
The report argues that changes in the rankings from year to year are “modest” but looking at changes in the output metric – which includes research, tertiary enrolments and employability – over five years, Saudi Arabia has shown the biggest improvement, up 12 places. Malaysia follows, rising seven spots.
“Both countries have in recent years devoted considerable additional resources to higher education,” the report states.