US National Higher Education System Ranked Number 1

October 18, 2008

Pioneering university ranking technology compares higher education systems across 40 countries

LONDON, ENG –  October 17, 2009 – QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the world’s leading career and education intelligence provider, has created a preliminary university ranking technology, known as SAFE (System, Access, Flagship, Economics). It is the first attempt worldwide to compare entire national higher education systems, rather than individual institutions. SAFE utilizes latest research emerging from the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings 2008 – available on – to draw comparisons across 40 countries. 

The innovative methodology provides a direct comparison between the world’s higher education-providing nations. It contains new criteria which avoid the pitfalls of ranking nations simply according to the number of universities those nations have in the top 200.

Developed over the last twelve months by QS, SAFE allows a more direct comparison between two nations using four key criteria:

System: the capacity of each country to produce world-class universities, taking the number of universities that each country has in the top 500 of the THE-QS World University Rankings and dividing it by their average position.

Access: how good a country’s system is at getting students into internationally reputable universities, calculated by taking each country’s number of full-time equivalent students at the top 500 universities, factored against its population.

Flagship: a score based on the position of the top institution in each country, according to the THE-QS World University Rankings listed

Economic: acknowledging countries that have a viable university system despite their relative wealth, and awarding points for high-performing schools compared with the country’s GDP per capita.

Ben Sowter, head of the QS Intelligence Unit behind the SAFE methodology, says: “Each country faces different economic and demographic realities. This preliminary analysis attempts to take these into account whilst evaluating the success of each national system in terms of its global competitiveness. It represents a first step in benchmarking the strength of different countries’ systems in today’s rapidly changing international higher education landscape.”

QS SAFE – National System Strength Rankings


Source: QS Quacquarelli Symonds