Each year more universities are evaluated in the QS World University Rankings® and a greater level of detail on each is collected. QS is committed to developing additional supportive analyses to highlight different points of interest in the results and to recognise the unique strengths of a broader range of institutions.

In order to evaluate the national strength of Higher Education, QS has identified four key indicators which have been combined with equal weighting using standard statistical methods (the same standardisation approach used for the main QS World University Rankings®).

  • System

    This represents an evaluation of the overall strength of the system based on the performance of all the institutions from that country meeting a certain qualifying standard. More precisely, the number of institutions ranked 700 or higher, in the given country, divided by the average position of those institutions.

  • Access

    Widening participation is one of the hottest issues on the higher education agenda today. The first component of delivering against that agenda, for any given country, is having sufficient places at universities of an internationally recognised standard. This indicator is calculated based on the number of places at top 500 universities from the subject country (specifically the total number of FTE students at the universities from that country featuring in the top 500 in the QS World University Rankings™) divided by an indicator of population size (specifically the square root of the population).

  • Flagship

    There is some international debate as to whether a country with limited funds ought to dilute their funds across many institutions in a system or concentrate funds with a view to building at least one “world class university”. Whether by direct investment, or by riding the wave of domestic competition, the performance of a country’s leading university is a credit to the system from whence it comes. This indicator takes the form of a normalized score based on the global performance of the leading university from the country in question.

  • Economic

    Not all nations, or higher education institutions within nations have access to equal funds. The strength of the country’s economy is a major factor but also cultural influences that may affect factors such as industrial funding or alumni donations play a role. This indicator recognizes two key factors, firstly the relative fiscal emphasis that the given government places on higher education and secondly, the impact or effectiveness of that investment – essentially recognising performance relative to investment. The indicator takes an indexed score (7 points for a university in the top 100, 6 points for 101-200, 5 points for 201-300, 4 for 301-400, 3 for 401-500, 2 for 501-600 and 1 for 601-700) and factors it against the GDP per capita for the country in question.