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UK is (just) number 1 for educating the world’s leaders

  • 5 August 2017
  • By Nick Hillman

A new study by the Higher Education Policy Institute ( reveals the UK’s higher education sector has educated more of the world’s leaders than any other.

Among 377 serving heads of state and heads of government, 58 attended universities and colleges in the UK. This places the UK just ahead of the United States (57) but far ahead of all other countries. France is in third place, with 33 world leaders, ahead of Russia (9) and Australia (8).

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said:

These results show the UK punches massively above its weight in educating the leaders of the world. This is of huge benefit to British influence, and could be especially useful as we negotiate Brexit.

Not only do these leaders have a British qualification that helped them reach the top, they have also spent time here creating a strong sense of loyalty to the UK. It’s a source of real soft power, and a fantastic testament to the quality of our universities.

The 2017 Conservative election manifesto promised a new crackdown on international students. This survey proves that would be catastrophic to our influence around the world. It is one higher education promise that almost everyone wants to see broken.

Leaders educated in the UK include: Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who took degrees at Oxford and SOAS during the 1960s and 1980s; recently-elected Gambian President Adama Barrow, who worked as an Argos security guard while studying property management in London; and the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Tunbull, who studied at the University of Oxford.

All of the leaders in the analysis came to study in the UK before the current migration target came in and, like the majority of international students, they returned to their country of origin after their studies.

Notes to Editors
  1. The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) undertook desk research in late July 2017 analysing the leaders of each country, defined as heads of state and heads of government. Those who had studied in the UK include 58 people leading 49 countries, which is around one-quarter of all states: Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; Bahrain; Belgium; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Botswana; Brunei; Burma; Colombia; Cyprus; Denmark; Dominica; Egypt; The Gambia; Ghana; Guyana; Hungary; Iceland; Iran; Iraq; Ireland; Jordan; Lesotho; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Malawi; Malaysia; Malta; Mauritius; Monaco; Mozambique; Namibia; Nepal; Nigeria; Norway; Oman; Palestine; Peru; Qatar; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Serbia; Singapore; Somalia; Syria; Tonga; Tuvalu; United Arab Emirates; and Yemen.
  2. The countries included in the study are member states or observer states of the United Nations. This means Taiwan and Somaliland were excluded even though the President of both countries studied in the UK.
  3. People who studied as distance learners are also excluded because the soft-power benefits to the UK are likely to be lower. The Presidents of Rwanda and Zimbabwe completed UK qualifications via correspondence, and we believe the Prime Minister of the Bahamas did as well.
  4. World leaders’ biographical information is of variable accessibility and quality. Some nations of study may be omitted due to a lack of reliable sources and others are included despite there only being limited background detail (for example there are sources showing that the Prime Minister of Bahrain studied in England between 1957 and 1959, but not what or where).
  5. Presidents, Monarchs, Prime Ministers are included in the study, as are Presidencies made up by multiple-member bodies (such as Switzerland). Representatives and Governors-General are not.
  6. The President and Acting President of Nigeria are both included in the study.
  7. The Prime Minister of Nepal claims to have studied at LSE, but this is disputed. He is included in the study.
  8. Ten leaders studied at the University of the West Indies, which serves Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Attempting to unpick in which of these countries each leader took their UWI course is beyond the scope of this study. Therefore, we have assumed that each one studied in their home nation.
  9. The full information is available in Excel form. As the available information on leaders’ education is of such variable quality, please notify us of any errors.


  1. Rezwan Haque says:

    This is because, Americans only care about Slavery. American slavery are hidden under the University. Look at their systems…GRE/GMAT, Score sending fee (even electronic score!!!), Application fee, Airfare..and what not!!! They doesn’t even Produce Scholar, they produce worker. They want slaves for their labs.
    UK care about dissertation which eventually may publish as Book but USA care about snippet of dissertation- which is publication (which not that bad at all) but lacks concrete things.
    Other than USA, there are many countries in the world, are thriving, they’re patenting their technologies, still, these countries are not bothered about GRE/GMAT. UK accepts test report for IELTS and they verify on their own whereas USA takes $20-30 just only for sending scores? Really, Harvard!!!!!
    USA only offers limited or short term scholarship for international persons/students, even though, some are practically awarded after 5-10 years of experience.
    I request UK universities to give/at least make eligible to apply for scholarship in UK and then force them to come back to their own country through policy. But, keep in mind that, not always GPA is the main thing to be successful. I request HEPI UK to check how many of world leader those who educated in UK was first class first in their class. They only thing that matter is, good heart and interest. That can make world a better place by a good hearted leader.

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