New Zealand, Finland, Ireland and Australia are the most efficient producers of top universities, according to a University World News analysis of the latest THE-QS ranking of the world's top 500 universities.
Those four nations not only had more universities per head of population in the Times Higher Education-Quacquarelli Symonds top 500 than any others, they also produced more such institutions in terms of their percentage share of global GDP than other countries.
Remarkably, New Zealand and Finland also featured in the top three when population and GDP measures were applied to Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities earlier this year. (See "Global: University world rankings", University World News, 17 August 2008.)
In the latest THE-QS World University Rankings, Ireland had more top 500 universities per head of population than any other nation. But New Zealand was streets ahead with its top universities when its share of global GDP was taken into account.
The University World News analysis shows that with seven institutions in the top 500 and a population of 4.15 million, Ireland produced one top 500 university for every 593,000 people.
Close behind was New Zealand, with one top 500 university for every 695,000 people, and Finland with one for every 749,000 Finns. Only two other nations required fewer than one million citizens to produce a top 500 institution: Australia, with one for every 936,000 people, and Switzerland with one for every 947,000.
Considered by share of global GDP - a figure provided with the Shanghai rankings - New Zealand was by far the most efficient producer of top 500 institutions. Its six institutions in the THE-QS rankings equated to one for every 0.03% of global GDP, twice as effective as second-placed Finland with one for every 0.06% of global GDP.
Ireland and Australia were equal third with one THE-QS top 500 institution for every 0.07% of GDP, followed by Israel with one for every 0.08 per cent.
The UK was easily the best performing large nation, featuring in the per capita and per share of GDP in the top 500s. Britain had one THE-QS top 500 institution for every 1.2 million people, placing it eighth on the population table, and one for every 0.1% of global GDP, raising it to seventh.
The US, with 103 institutions in the THE-QS list, had one top 500 university for every 2.95 million people, while Germany's 42 top 500 institutions equated to one for every 1.96 million Germans.
The 10 most efficient producers of institutions in the THE-QS top 500 was a largely re-ordered list of the 10 most efficient producers of institutions in the Academic Ranking of World Universities produced by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.
New Zealand and Finland were second and third respectively in both lists, while other nations to occur in both top 10s by population were Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
Austria and Israel featured in the Jiao Tong list but they dropped out of the THE-QS rankings after being replaced by the UK and Hong Kong.
*John Gerritsen is editor of the NZ Education Review
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