27 February 2017

Duncan Ross, Director of Data and Analytics at Times Higher Education  (THE), at a meeting of university leaders in Davos last month, presented evidence on the relationship between income and excellence in higher education. He noted that there was a strong relationship between GDP per capita and the quality of a country’s higher education system as measured by the mean overall score of those universities included in the THE World Universities Rankings. The best performing country for overall quality is Singapore while the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland also perform well.

There are, however, some qualifications that should be made. The university systems of Singapore, the Netherlands and Hong Kong do better than would be expected while those of Japan and oil rich Gulf states such as Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates underperform. Ross suggest that the limited achievement of the Gulf countries in relation to their wealth reflects their status as relative newcomers to research and higher education.

Looking at the expenditure by universities per student there is again a general trend for money to be associated with success but there are some exceptions and qualifications. The USA spends much more than almost every other country but the quality of its universities is less than that of Germany and Sweden and only slightly better than Canada.

Times Higher Education

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