The criteria used in the international rankings of universities are distorting national systems of higher education by encouraging all institutions to be comprehensive in scope and research intensive. What matters for a nation is the total system that caters for a range of interests and abilities. The Universitas 21 (U21) annual rankings rate national systems of higher education in 50 countries on 24 attributes grouped into four modules: Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output. The modules recognise that to be successful a system needs both adequate resources and a favourable regulatory and policy environment.

The absolute performance of a country’s higher education system will depend on the national level of income as measured by GDP per capita. In recognition of this we construct auxiliary rankings that allow for differences in income levels. We also examine relationships between input and output variables and the findings provide guidance for policy makers.

Professor Ross Williams
Gaétan de Rassenfosse
Melbourne Institute

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