General information on ranking

Name of the ranking U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems
Geographical scope Global
Name of person in charge of ranking Ross Williams
E-mail of person in charge of ranking
Website of the ranking
Publication frequency annual
First year of publication 2012
Most recent year of publication 2020
Date of last update 2021-08-26
Ranking organization Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and Social Research, University of Melbourne
Website of the methodology

The Universitas 21 Ranking evaluates national higher education systems and uses 24 measures of performance.


R1. Government expenditure on tertiary education institutions as a percentage of GDP (5%).

R2. Total expenditure on tertiary education institutions as a percentage of GDP (5%).

R3. Annual expenditure per student by tertiary education institutions in USD purchasing power parity (5%).

R4. Expenditure in tertiary education institutions for  R&D as a percentage of GDP (2.5%).

R5. Expenditure in tertiary education institutions for R&D per head of population at USD purchasing power parity  (2.5%).


E1. Proportion of female students in tertiary education (1%).

E2. Proportion of female academic staff in tertiary institutions (2%).

E3. A rating for data quality (2%).

E4. Qualitative measure of the policy environment comprising the diversity of the system (including the percentage of tertiary students enrolled in private institutions and the percentage of students enrolled in ISCED level 5 courses) and two survey results (1. the policy and regulatory environment, 2. the financial autonomy of public universities) (10%).

E5. Responses to WEF survey question (7-point scale): “How well does the educational system in your country meet the needs of a competitive economy?” (5%).


C1. Proportion of international students in tertiary education (4%).

C2. Proportion of articles co-authored with international collaborators (4%).

C4. Webometrics VISIBILITY index: the number of external links that university web domains receive  divided by country’s population (4%).

C5. Responses to question ‘Knowledge transfer is highly developed between companies and universities’, asked of business executives in the annual survey by IMD World Development Centre (4%).

C6. Percentage of university research publications that are co-authored with industry researchers (4%).


O1. Total number of research documents  produced by higher education institutions (10%).

O2. Total number of research documents  produced by higher education institutions per head of population (3%).

O3. Average impact of articles as measured by the Category Normalised Citation Impact for documents published 2014 – 2018 (5%).

O4. The depth of world-class universities in a country according to the Shanghai Jiao Tong scores, divided by country population (3%).

O5. The excellence of a nation’s best universities calculated by totalling the 2019 Shanghai Jiao Tong scores for the nation’s three best universities (7%).

O6. Enrolments in tertiary education as a percentage of eligible population (3%).

O7. Percentage of the population aged 25-64 with a tertiary qualification (3%).

O8. Number of researchers (full-time equivalent) in the nation per million of population (3%).

O9. The inverse of the unemployment rate among tertiary educated aged 25–64 divided by the unemployment rate for those with only upper secondary education  (3%).

Additional information

  • Type of publication: internet, print - special publication
  • Internet users access to ranking: open access
  • Language of publication: English
  • Main target groups: higher education institutions, policymakers, governments and funding agencies
  • Major dimensions covered: employability, innovation, internationalization, knowledge transfer, reputation, research, teaching, web presence
  • Structure of presentation: multi-indicator ranking, ordinary presentation (league tables)
  • Data sources: third-party database (data not provided by HEI)
  • Quality assurance of ranking: advisory board, periodic consultancy
  • Website of the ranking organization:
  • Types of the ranking organization: university/higher education institution
  • Types of rankings: national