The best countries in the world for university education usually produce a large number of high-quality institutions.
A recent ranking of the top 200 universities in the world by Times Higher Education (THE) indicates that this is true—schools from the US and UK dominate the top 30.
However, there are exceptions: China has more universities in the top 200 than any other country outside of these two English-speaking nations, while Russia’s late surge means it now has seven entries overall. Here’s our look at how each nation fares on its educational frontiers:
USA and UK universities usually top the rankings.
The US and UK are usually at the top of the rankings, with both countries having more top 200 entries than any other country.
The US has the most entries in the top 200 (24), while the UK has more than any other country in the ultimate 100 (16), and Europe as a whole has more than any different continent in the top 200 (26).
Asian countries are not far behind, with Japan coming in third place for most entries in all three lists: overall ranking (10), best institutions list (14), and most research citations per paper published by institutions from each country (12).
USA universities dominate the top 30.
The USA dominates the top 30, with ten universities. The UK has 9, Germany has 6, and Japan has 2 (Todai and Kyoto).
The USA also dominates in numbers: it has the most universities in the top 200 (47) and 100 (42), followed by China’s 34, India’s 32, and Japan’s 29.
-Looking at just the top 50 institutions worldwide, there are more American universities than any other country—43 compared to Singapore’s 27 and China’s 26.
Even within this group, only four non-American universities make it into this exclusive club; namely, Oxford University from England, which sits at number 18 overall;
Cambridge University from England comes in at number 19; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology from Zurich, ranked 20th; Imperial College London, also from England, ranks 22nd on our list.
While another British institution – King’s College London, makes 23rd place globally on our list.
Most UK universities are in the top 100.
In general, British universities perform very well on global rankings. For example, the UK has 45 out of the top 100 universities on the QS World University Rankings 2019, more than any other country—and 20 more than the second-placed United States.
British institutions tend to fare better than their overseas counterparts when it comes to rankings.
A study by Times Higher Education (THE) found that British universities receive almost twice as many citations per paper as those in North America and nearly three times as many as those in China or Japan.
Europe is home to many of the world’s oldest universities.
While the US has the most universities in the top 100, Europe has more than any other region.
It’s home to some of the oldest—Oxford and Cambridge have been around since 1096 and 1209, respectively.
However, not all of Europe’s universities are so old: established in 1912, University College London is one of the youngest members of this list (including Charles University in Prague).
As you can see from our data below, Europe dominates with 17 entries on this list—that’s almost half.
The following highest number comes from Asia with 14 entries; Africa and South America each have six; North America has five;
Australia/New Zealand has three; Oceania has two; Central America/Caribbean only has one representative (University Autónoma de Guadalajara), and finally there’s none for the Middle East or North Africa.
China has more universities in the top 200.
So, which country has the best universities? Nobody can argue that America doesn’t have some of the best universities in the world.
But if you’re looking for a global perspective on this question, it’s worth considering China.
China has more universities in the top 200 than any other country outside the US and UK—despite having a much smaller population than either nation. Shenzhen is also home to one of the world’s most prominent universities (Jinan University), with over 60 campuses across China and even more satellite campuses around Asia.
In addition to its large number of schools within its borders and their high-quality standards, China also boasts an impressive economy:
It’s currently ranked second place behind only the United States on Bloomberg’s Global Innovation Index list for 2019.
-This means that there are plenty of employment opportunities for graduates from these schools
—and if you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit or want to start up your own business abroad, why not consider doing so instead?
Asian countries perform well but with fewer entries.
China has the most universities in the top 200 outside the US and UK. However, it also has some of the best-performing universities, such as Tsinghua University (ranked 30th) and Peking University (ranked 34th).
Chinese education is improving at a rapid pace. The country is making an enormous investment in higher education, with plans to add 20 million new university places by 2020.
In addition, China’s huge population means more than 500 million students could potentially attend university if they wanted to—and many do want to go.
Australia has five universities in the top 100.
Australia has five universities in the top 100 but none in the top 30. Conversely, Australia has a high number of universities in the top 200, with 19 universities.
-This is more than any other country except China and Japan (both have 20). Australia also has many institutions in the top 100 and 50, with 8 and 11, respectively.
Russia has had a late surge in educational standards.
Russia has had a late surge in educational standards and has seven entries in the top 200. -This is more than any other country outside the US and UK.
Russia’s rise to the top isn’t just impressive because of its recent development—it’s also significant for being one of the leading contributors to science, technology, and innovation worldwide. Russia’s contribution to science is second only to that of the United States.
The University of Moscow (#56) is one such institution with an impressive list of alums, including Mikhail Gorbachev (former president), Alexander Pushkin (poet), Ivan Pavlov (physiologist), and Vladimir Putin himself.
Canada has only one university in the top 50.
Canada has only one university in the top 50 but six in the top 200 overall, more than any other non-European country.
For this reason, it’s no surprise that Canada also has more universities in the top 200 than any other non-European country.
USA and UK universities usually top the rankings
If you’re looking for the best universities in the world, it’s worth noting that the UK and USA are usually among those at the top of these rankings.
Cambridge (2nd) and Oxford (3rd). Here’s a sampling of some other prominent rankings from recent years:
- 2017–18 QS World University Rankings: 1st – Harvard University; 2nd – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); 3rd – Stanford University; 4th – Princeton University; 5th – California Institute of Technology (Caltech); 6th – Yale University; 7th – Columbia University; 8th – Cornell University; 9th – California State Polytechnic Institute Pomona (Cal Poly Pomonna) in California; 10th – Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland
So while some countries are performing well, the US and UK still dominate at the top of the rankings.
But this isn’t necessarily bad – these two countries have some of the best universities in the world, with many others also making significant progress towards improving their standards.
And if you want to study abroad as an international student, plenty of options are available.