Universitas 21 (U21) produces an annual ranking not of universities but of 50 national university systems. There are 25 criteria grouped in four categories, resources, connectivity, environment and output. There is also an overall league table.
The resources section consists of various aspects of expenditure on tertiary education. Output includes publications, citations, performance in the Shanghai rankings, tertiary enrolment, graduates and graduate employment .
The top five in the overall rankings are USA, Switzerland, UK, Denmark and Sweden. No surprises there. The biggest improvements since 2013 have been by China, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and South Africa.
It is interesting to compare resources with output. The top ten for resources comprise six European countries, three of them in Scandinavia, Canada, the USA, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.
The bottom 10 includes two from Latin America, four, including China, from Asia, three from Eastern Europe, and South Africa.
There is a significant relationship correlation of .732 between resources and output. But the association is not uniform. China is in 43rd place for resources but is 21st for output. Saudi Arabia in the top ten for resources but 33rd for output. Malaysia is 11th for resources but 38th for output.
I have constructed a table showing the relationship between resources and output by dividing the score for output by resources and we get a table showing how efficient systems are at converting money into employable graduates, instructing students and doing research. This is very crude as is the data and the way in which U21 combines them but it might have some interesting implications
The top ten are:
We have heard a lot about the lavish funding given to Chinese tertiary education. But it seems that China is also very good at turning resources into research and teaching.
The bottom ten are:
49. Saudi Arabia
At the moment the causes of low efficiency are uncertain. But it seems reasonable that the limitations of primary and secondary school systems and cultural attitudes to science and knowledge may be significant. The results of standardised tests such as PISA and TIMSS should be given careful attention.