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The UK's only independent think tank devoted to higher education.

US extends its lead over the UK in HEPI’s annual soft-power rankings

  • 5 September 2019

A new Policy Note from the Higher Education Policy Institute, The soft-power benefits of educating the world’s leaders, shows the UK continues to fall behind the US when it comes to educating people who go on to lead their own countries.

Two years ago, the UK had educated one more serving world leader (58) than the US (57). Today, there is one more serving world leader educated in the UK (59) than back in 2017 but there are three more who were educated in the US (62). Over the same period, the number of world leaders who were educated in France has increased from 34 to 40.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI and a co-author of the report, said:

The soft power that the UK has historically accrued through educating so many of the world’s leaders is extraordinary. It is rivalled only by the US, which is of course far larger.

But it cannot be taken for granted. In recent years, the UK has slipped behind the US while the third placed country, France, has made great strides. Moreover, as the UK struggles to find its new place in the world, it may need to rely on the potential benefits from soft power even more than in the past.

Given that the UK’s international student numbers have flatlined in recent years while countries like Australia have been forging ahead, this won’t be easy. Our survey of world leaders provides yet more evidence of the need for a more positive approach towards international students than has been taken over the ast decade.’

Tom Huxley, a freelance researcher who undertook the original research for the report, said:

Britain’s higher education sector has, in the past, been the most attractive on the planet for those who go on to lead their own countries.

But the growth of US influence in this ranking is striking. US institutions have educated more of today’s world leaders than we have. If recent trends continue, there is a risk that, over time, it could diminish the standing of our universities.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Higher Education Policy Institute was established in 2002 to shape the higher education policy debate with evidence. It is the United Kingdom’s only independent think tank devoted to higher education. HEPI is a non-partisan charity funded in part by organisations and universities that wish to see a vibrant higher education debate.
  2. HEPI’s previous surveys on the education of world leaders are still available online: 2015, 2017 and 2018.

1 comment

  1. Aasia Shafiq Chaudhry says:

    Yes I do agree. Soft power is definitely needed to educate world leaders but is also required to educate and develop our own nation. UK universities appear to be falling behind. Lack of these skills can affect society as a whole.

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