International Higher Education Statistics

Color Coding Key
GREEN Ranked 1st for statistic
RED Ranked last for statistic

The United States' ranks 3rd in tertiary attainment among the nations surveyed but ranks 4th to last in tertiary education spending as a percent of GDP per capita.

  OECD Skills Outlook   Top universities per capita
  Tertiary attainment Expenditure/tertiary student Mean literacy proficiency Mean numeracy proficiency Think tanks Think tanks per capita QS Rankings Times Rankings
Australia 38 20.9 280.4 267.6 29 1.40 24.1 9.6
Canada 51   273.5 265.5 97 2.96 6.1 9.1
Denmark 34 56.9 270.8 278.3 27 4.94 3.3 3.3
France 30 40.0 262.1 254.2 176 2.86 2.4 0
Germany 28   269.8 271.7 191 2.31 0 1.2
Italy 15 25.8 250.5 247.1 90 1.53 0 0
Japan 46 25.3 296.2 288.2 103 0.81 2.4 0.8
Netherlands 32 42.7 284.0 280.3 53 3.24 0 0
Norway 38 44.7 278.4 278.3 14 2.99 0 0
Sweden 35 41.8 279.2 279.1 65 7.13 0 11.0
United Kingdom 39 20.5 272.5 261.7 278 4.57 14.8 11.5
United States 42 21.7 269.8 252.8 1816 6.03 6.6 10.0


View OECD education reportView Graphical Data

Tertiary attainment as a percent for age group 25-64 for 2011: OECD. Tertiary education is university and post-secondary vocational education.

View World Bank statisticsView Graphical Data

As a percent of GDP/capita. World Development Indicators by World Bank, for most recent year (2009-11). Canada and Germany's most recent year reported was 1998 or before and is therefore irrelevant to the scope of this site.

View OECD Skills Outlook report

OECD Skills Outlook 2013 is a first time report that measures the capacity for each country to adapt from low-level skilled jobs which are becoming increasingly automated with technological inovations. The test measures more timeless factors like literacy and numeracy skills as well as problem solving skills in technology-rich envrironments.

Mean literacy proficiency View Graphical Data

OECD SkillS Outlook 2013 literacy skills test implicates "the ability to understand and respond appropriately to written texts," for 2013. Results are determined among 5 proficiency levels, the mean score of which is shown here.

Mean numeracy proficiency View Graphical Data

OECD SkillS Outlook 2013 numeracy skills test implicates "the ability to use numerical and mathematical concepts," for 2013. Results are determined among 5 proficiency levels, the mean score of which is shown here.

Visit University of Pennsylvania websiteView Graphical Data

Based on JG McGann's "The Global Go-to Think Tanks," 2011, which evaluates the most effective think tanks.

Top universities per capita

Based on number of universities in the top 50 of each ranking system per 100,000,000 people. For lack of a definitive and authoritative rankings system, two different sources have been included here:

Visit QS websiteView Graphical Data

Based on academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), citations by faculty (20%), student-faculty ratio (20%), proportion of international students (5%), and proportion of international faculty (5%).

Visit THE websiteView Graphical Data

Based on the learning environment (30%), research (volume, income and reputation (30%), citations (30%), industry income (innovation, 2.5%), and International outlook (staff, students and research, 7.5%)


"Commercialising Public Research: New Trends and Strategies," OECD


Innovation systems are highly impacted by public research organizations (public research instutes and research universities). The OECD, admitting the difficulty of quantifying the impact of public research but still contending that its impact is evidently significant enough, attempts to distinguish which comercialization processes and mainstream technology transfer practices are most effective. The evolving study could have broad implications on research and development.

"Dropping Out of College, and Paying the Price," Eduardo Porter

June 25th, 2013, New York Times

"More than 70 percent of Americans matriculate at a four-year college — the seventh-highest rate among 23 developed nations for which the O.E.C.D. compiles such statistics. But less than two-thirds end up graduating. Including community colleges, the graduation rate drops to 53 percent. Only Hungary does worse."

"... [H]alf of Americans in the top fourth of the income distribution have a college degree. Among the poorest fourth of Americans, fewer than one in 10 graduated from college. And the gap is growing. The college graduation rate of high-income Americans born in the 1980s was 20 percentage points higher than in the 1960s. Among low-income Americans, it advanced only 4 percent."

"Report: It's Better to Be a Poor Student in Almost Any Rich Country but the U.S.," Jordan Weissman

September 13, 2012, The Atlantic

U.S. demonstrates inability to translate high tertiary attainment scores into jobs during rough economic times.

"University Research Funding: The United States is Behind and Falling," Robert T. Atkinson and Luke A. Stewart

May 2011, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Percent of GDP allocated from U.S. government and private sector to research and development projects in higher education decline according to 2008 figures. U.S. government-funded research expenditures as a percent of GDP only out-shone Japan among the 10 countries (Italy and Denmark not included) documented in the ITIF study. The U.S. spent .24% of its GDP. U.S. businesses accounted for contributions representing .020% of GDP. Both statistics are documented to be in steady decline.

NEA, Higher Education Advocate 25:3, February 2008, p. 1

  • US ranks 10th in percent of 25-34 year olds with an AA degree or more.
  • US is one of few nations where older adults are more educated than younger adults
  • US is near the bottom in percent of entering students who complete a degree

"America's brains are falling behind," Bob Herbert

August 6, 2010, New York Times.

According to the College Board, the United States now ranks 12th among 36 developed nations in percentage of of young people with a college degree.