The United Kingdom is home to one of highest performing university systems in the world, according to a new figure released today (Thursday 21 May).

The latest Universitas 21 (U21) report, places the UK second only to the United States for global research outputs, the quality of its best institutions, the impact of its research and the production of an educated workforce that meets labour market needs.

According to the fourth annual Universitas 21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems the UK is ranked eighth overall out of 50 countries. Furthermore, when levels of GDP per capita are taken into account, the United Kingdom’s overall ranking improves to sixth and its score is considerably above the level expected at its income level.

Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham and Chair of Universitas 21, said of the 2015 report:

‘The Universitas 21 Ranking is significant as it allows us to compare education systems worldwide rather than individual institutions as is more common. With internationalisation taking centre stage among topical issues surrounding higher education, the U21 Ranking incorporates this global context.


‘Furthermore, by emphasising world-class systems over world-class universities, the U21 Ranking highlights the important role higher education institutions contribute collectively to economic and cultural development in their respective countries.

‘Closer to home, the U21 Ranking results demonstrate why the United Kingdom continues to attract top-class academics and students from around the world. Maintaining this position, despite financial challenges, is an absolute priority if we are to ensure that the UK continues to be competitive and recognised for its world-class teaching and research.’

The U21 Ranking is the only one in the world to assess national higher education systems and meets a longstanding need to shift discussion from the ranking of the world’s best universities to the best overall systems in each country. It has been developed as a benchmark for governments, education institutions and individuals. U21 is the leading global network of research-intensive universities, with the University of Birmingham being a founding member.

The 2015 Ranking includes the same 50 countries as in the previous two reports, which have again been ranked separately by four areas (Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output) and also given an overall rating. Population size is accounted for in the calculations. The research authors, based at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, looked at 25 measures across these four areas, allowing them to create a very detailed picture of the higher education system in each country.


Notes to Editors

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The full 2015 Ranking report and all data can be found on the U21 website, along with an interactive map containing a country-specific summary for each of the 50 countries included in the report:

The site also contains a data comparison tool, which allows users to directly compare the overall ranking and individual measure results from all countries over the years.

Universitas 21 (U21) Members List:

United Kingdom
University of Birmingham
University of Edinburgh
University of Glasgow
University of Nottingham

University of Melbourne
University of Queensland
UNSW Australia

McGill University
University of British Columbia

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Fudan University
Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Hong Kong
University of Hong Kong

University of Delhi

University College Dublin

Waseda University

Tecnológico de Monterrey

New Zealand
University of Auckland

National University of Singapore

South Africa
University of Johannesburg

South Korea
Korea University

Lund University

The Netherlands
University of Amsterdam

United States of America
The Ohio State University
University of Connecticut
University of Maryland