Menu of Measures and Data Tables

The methodology and data used to calculate the rankings.

Salmi (2011, p.338), from a list of desirable features, concludes that “the governance framework and the availability of financial resources are definitely essential because they condition the degree of autonomy of research universities.  These factors influence the universities’ ability to mobilize funding for recruiting and keeping top academics and for providing them with the appropriate teaching and research infrastructure…” 


We follow Salmi and include measures of financial resources as well as what we label as the ‘Environment’.  National investment in higher education is measured by public and private expenditure on teaching and research.  These expenditures and the manner in which they are distributed between institutions and used within institutions are crucial determinants of the contribution of the sector to the economy.  The ‘Environment’ encompasses the governmental regulatory regime, the degree of diversity in types of institutions and funding, and the openness of the system to minorities.  We add a third type of desirable attribute, the ‘Connectiveness’  of the higher education system with the rest of society and internationally.  As a measure of the efficacy of the system we use a range of output measures such as research performance, participation rates and graduate levels. 


To summarise, we evaluate the standing of national higher education systems by providing rankings in four broad areas.  These are:


  • Resources
  • Environment
  • Connectivity
  • Output

The rankings are then combined to provide an overall ranking.


In evaluating the quality of a national higher education system we control for national size in most measures.  The diversity of higher education systems across countries, not withstanding convergence over time, means that for many variables data are most readily available for the whole of the tertiary sector, covering the ISCED classifications 5A, 5B and 6.  However, data for variables such as research output often relate solely to universities or comparable institutions.  The definitions and coverage of variables we use to measure performance within each of the four broad areas are set out below.  A list of sources is downloadable below.  In some cases data for a few countries are from earlier years than those given below.