(→Papers in This Series)
It should not be a surprise that the project we undertook to develop 20-year scenarios for an art form – something apparently never previously attempted – has led to discoveries beyond what we learned through more than a year of preparatory research. The first 11 papers listed at the end of each of the scenario papers in this Knowledge Base have taken us 90% of the way, and we hoped from the way our work had evolved in paper #11 ( A First Set of Music Sector Scenarios ) to proceed with a statistical model of the music sector for 2015. That would then allow us to put real numbers on the four scenarios up to 2035 in a final paper in the series.
Subsequent analysis has revealed an important flaw, addressed in the present paper. We have always stressed in this project, and the Music Trust generally, that Australian music does not exist in a vacuum – on the contrary, it is truly international. We need to be more specific about the links to the geopolitical and global economic forces which influence it. Otherwise we cannot define it.
The flaw is that we have largely omitted the crucial set of variables that will drive the basic international relationships over the long period of the scenarios – what may happen as the international power balances keep shifting, especially between the superpower that emerged during and after World War 2 (the United States) and the current Chinese ascendancy.
Such power shifts have profound effects on international business and international financial relations – effects which cannot be predicted accurately but can be incorporated into each of our four music scenarios, from the best-case “Culture reigns” to “Sliding inexorably”. There may be more challenges in this than meet the eye because they go beyond economic impact to possible cultural shifts as the global power balance keeps changing.
This paper simplifies the issues to the extent that China is seen as the only real rival power to America, though there others may be waiting in the wings though not at this stage seen as potential superpowers. In 2015, China is engaged in a gigantic task to keep building its economy, jumping some very large hurdles on the way. It is also asserting a right to several small islands and reefs in the South China Sea which are already subject to overlapping claims by surrounding nations –– China wants to sail within the 12-mile maritime limit that another sovereign state controls, and use landfill and put down airstrips and garrisons. The South China Sea is a thoroughfare for much of the world’s seaborne trade, so the issue is global, not limited to the neighbouring countries.
Even if we bypass other vital parts of the global economy in this investigation, such as the European Union, India, Southeast Asia and Latin America, it cannot be ignored that Russia, under Vladimir Putin, is currently asserting power on the world stage by intervening in Syria’s conflict – its first such move outside the former Soviet Union since the end of the Cold War. Readers hardly need any reminder that Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014 and subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine have geopolitical implications. Nevertheless, the focus of this paper is on China and America.
The Economist comments in a recent leading article:
Nobody should wonder that America’s pre-eminence is being contested. After the Soviet collapse the absolute global supremacy of the United States sometimes began to seem normal. In fact, its dominance reached such heights only because Russia was reeling and China was emerging from the chaos and depredations that had so diminished it in the 20th century. Even today, America remains the only country able to project power right across the globe. (As we have recently argued, its sway over the financial system is still growing.)
In the interest of achieving reasonable simplicity despite the great complexity of this subject, we concentrate on a minimum of sources (and make frequent use of footnotes to simplify the main narrative):
Arvind Subramanian’s book on this subject was published near the peak of China’s boom in 2011. He notes that the world has seen successive dominating countries, illustrated by the graph to the left which shows the estimated share of global economic power from the 19th to 21st century.
In the 19th century, represented in the chart as “1870”, the world economy was dominated by Britain followed by France and Germany. Eighty years later, following World War 2, the British share had declined dramatically and war-torn continental Europe, while gaining importance and gearing up for what is today the European Union led by Germany, was no longer seen as globally dominant in the sense captured by Subramanian’s index, which gives share of world GDP, trade and net capital exports weights of 0.6, 0.35 and 0.05, respectively. America had more than taken Britain’s and mainland Europe’s 19th century place by 1950. Japan appeared as a major force in the 1970s and remains so despite some decline.
The current development, needless to say, is centred on China, entering with a 12% share of world economic power by 2010 and projected to add to this share through the subsequent two decades. Subramanian expects the American share to decline further between 2010 and 2030. He also forecasts that India will emerge as a leading world economic power in the 2020s (green bar shown for 2030).
As far as forecasting is concerned, we have stated repeatedly in this series of papers that scenario planning was introduced to go beyond single projections as the future becomes increasingly unpredictable, especially since 1970. Scenarios are stories of alternative futures. The trends revealed by Subramanian’s chart may well happen with profound continued impacts on all sorts of economic, social and cultural activities. By outlining a range of plausible “what if” situations the scenarios provide opportunities at all levels from global to local to plan against adverse developments and encourage positive ones.
What is virtually certain, however, is that the ebbs and flows of global economic power will continue, as they have from the dawn of history.
To gain further insight into the large-scale mechanisms that govern the international economic order, we need to point to Foulis’s statement (p 8): The three pillars of the world’s economic architecture, the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, are all in bad repair. America’s actions during the 2007-08 financial crisis contributed to this impasse, especially as far as the International Monetary Fund is concerned, by stepping in with large-scale financial assistance to stricken nations which would have been IMF’s domain if it had been better funded. This set in train the huge monetary movements which are a key issue in current international relations because they are not properly controlled by a supranational organisation.
Subsequent efforts by the Obama administration to put the IMF’s finances on a sounder footing and increase its legitimacy with emerging economies were unsuccessful because Congress failed to approve the reforms on four occasions since 2010.
Subramanian in his 2011 book made many important points, some of which were taken up by the Foulis report four years later. In Chapter 4, he noted that long-term projections are driven by “economic convergence”, whereby poorer countries catch up with richer ones, and by “gravity” (trade between countries) which is determined by their GDPs. He found that convergence has quickened – becoming broader in scope and faster in pace. We note, however, that the inequality remains huge between first and third world nations, which is likely to cause added tension as emerging countries keep converging and become ever more knowledgeable and communicative (through the social media as well as better education).
In his Chapter 7, Subramanian assumes that China’s growth will slow to 6% in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms over next 20 years, which in 2011 was down 40% on recent years. This could still happen despite the subsequent setbacks of Chinese business activity. In an article in India’s leading business journal, also dated 2011, Subramanian elaborates on his views on China’s growth strategy compared to India, which he forecasts will become the next contender as a major economic power:
For almost a decade now , China has followed a mercantilist growth strategy, which has involved maintaining a deliberately cheap exchange rate to boost exports and growth. Crucial to this policy has been China's choice to keep the economy relatively closed to foreign financial flows. Had it not done so, foreign capital chasing the high returns in China would have put upward pressure on the Chinese exchange rate and undercut its ability to export.
India, on the other hand, is steadily if stealthily dismantling its capital controls, foregoing the ability to emulate the Chinese growth strategy. Why so?
For reasons still unclear, the world, and hence Indian policymakers, are in thrall to the narrative of “imbalance” surrounding Chinese mercantilism. In this view, mercantilism has been a problem for China, creating distortions and reducing welfare, and a problem for the world. Now, Chinese mercantilism has not been costless, and these costs may well be rising … . But this imbalance narrative has obscured the first-order and potentially paradigm-shifting lesson about Chinese mercantilism: it promoted unprecedented growth, raised consumption dramatically, reduced vulnerability to risk, and facilitated China's rise as an economic superpower.
Subramanian noted in his book (2011a) that China was internationalising the yuan, which coupled with the relative ineffectiveness of the IMF as a forum for international cooperation makes it likely that engagement – and the scope for friction – between China and the other large economies will relate more to trade than macroeconomic issues. China in effect was compromising its mercantilism, which will make the World Trade Organisation rather than the IMF the key forum for operation between China and these countries.
The Economist’s special report on the world economy (Foulis 2015) called the current international financial regime “dominant and dangerous”. It also identified China as the main challenger of America’s dominance. The key issue is that America’s economic supremacy during the 70 years since the end of World War 2 is fading, but the American dollar still reigns supreme as “the superpower of the financial and monetary system” – the primacy of the greenback is unchallenged despite the growing imbalance that is caused by the rise of China as a rival superpower. One crucial aspect of this is whether the dollar will retain its role as the reserve currency of the world or whether this role will be contested, or shared, by the Chinese yuan.
America’s has lost trade but its dominance of international finance and the world monetary system has risen. In The Economist’s review of the world economy, Foulis (2015) calls America “the sticky superpower” whose capacity to influence the world economy will linger and even strengthen in some respects, despite loss of merchandise exports. In 1994, it was the leading exporter to 44 countries and China to only two. By 2014, America was the leading exporter to 32 countries, and China to 43, equivalent to America’s leadership in 1994.
Globalisation has caused America’s monetary footprint not to shrink though its trade footprint has. Since the 2007-08 global crisis, trillions of dollars follow the Federal Reserve around the world when it changes course. America’s indifference towards the IMF and World Bank, institutions it created to govern the system and over which it has vetoes, is criticised for reflecting power through neglect.
Global capital flows, larger than any time in history, move in rhythm with the volatility of America’s stock markets. The position of the dollar, widely seen as a pillar of soft power, has strengthened. America can borrow more cheaply, and it earns profits from issuing bank notes around the world. There is less currency risk for American firms. America is the safe haven to which investors rush, and foreigners accumulate dollars as a safety buffer. It can cut hostile states off, like Iran and Burma. “The threat of this sanction has given America an enhanced extra-territorial reach.” (p 5)
America’s clout has also increased due to technology. Economic activity has shifted towards intangible globalised services such as cloud computing and computerised financial trading. It dominates new generations of technology based on e-commerce, social media and the sharing economy. These products go global faster and penetrate more deeply into people’s minds and jobs than anything Silicon Valley has invented before. America, despite some challenge, also maintains a lead in other areas such as R&D, technology equipment such as smartphones, and consumer brands.
In other areas, America shines with a disproportionate share of the world’s research universities at the very top (see section on top universities). The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the global benchmark for the efficacy of new medicine. Patents issues in America are far ahead of Shanghai’s on credibility.
Facebook and Google do their main business abroad, and the share is rising. US firms host 61% of social media users, and undertake 91% of searches. China is not in the race here. Generally, China’s aura of confidence has been damaged by its economic troubles, though perhaps only temporarily.
Today’s world relies on a vastly bigger edifice of trade. “But it is important to be clear-headed about the long-term choices. America cannot expect effortlessly to dominate global finance and technology even as its share of world trade and GDP declines and it becomes ever more inward-looking.” (p 6) The world’s monetary system will be more prone to crises and America will not be able to isolate itself from their potential costs. Other countries led by China will create their own defence and could introduce more localised ("balkanised") rules of technology, trade and finance.
The challenge to create an architecture that can cope with America’s status as a sticky superpower has also become more difficult because of its internal policies, which makes economic diplomacy harder. This may be a temporary blip, but the US Congress has always been tricky to handle. Along with the intensification of US partisan policies, fallout from the financial crisis has exacerbated the nation's mistrust of globalisation and Americans worry more about stagnant middle-class incomes and shrinking blue-collar jobs.
The gold standard dissolved into depression and chaos in the 1930s. The Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates introduced in the 1940s collapsed in the 1970s to be replaced by a free-wheeling system of floating currencies and mobile capital, which suffers today from three related problems:
“China had its own variation [to building dollar reserves and minimising current-account deficits], pegging its currency [within a narrow band] but at a cheap rate to the dollar that generated vast current-account surpluses which the government heaped into an ever-growing pile of American Treasury bonds.” (p 10)
Trade flows and some debts are in internationally needed dollars, but there is no guaranteed lender of last resort. “The Fed lends money to foreigners on ad hoc terms. The IMF has insufficient money and legitimacy to play this role. Instead, many countries have built up enormous safety buffers of dollar resources in the form of Treasury bonds.” (p 10)
Those vast capital flows tend to move to America’s financial system, and all nations are affected, whether they floated their currency or pegged it to the American dollar. "Floaters" find that large capital items can cause crises even if your house is in order, rolling local economy bond markets and interest rates. Just because you don’t borrow in dollars doesn’t mean you are immune to “jittery foreigners’ antics”. China and other relatively “fixed peggers” find that if America raises interest rates, the dollar soars and so do their currencies, hurting exports. Moreover, the value of these huge reserves appear to be periodically at risk from a falling dollar, inflation, or even default.
It is wishful thinking that the global system will heal itself naturally (p 11). The sheer scale of the global financial system will ensure that it remains big and violent. Governments still have a strong incentive to run current-account surpluses and build up huge reserves if they can.
Foulis finds that it would be a lot harder than last time for the Fed to save the day (p 12). The offshore dollar system is almost twice as big as it was in 2007 and is growing fast, so any rescue would have to be at a much larger scale. The Economist review includes a scenario for “2023” suggesting that the consequences could be dire.
The global monetary system is unreformed, unstable and possibly unsustainable. What it needs is an engineer to design smart ways to tame capital flows, a policeman to stop beggar-thy-neighbour policies, a nurse to provide a safety net if things go wrong, and a judge to run the global payments system impartially. If America’s political system makes it hard to fill those vacancies, can China do better?” (p 12)
Not for some time according to The Economist. But China does demand a bigger international role and this is backed by economic logic. “A more international China could escape its subordinate role in the dollar zone. Allowing the yuan to float might, in time, help the economy adjust better and bring down trade imbalances. Prising open the capital account would make it easier for foreigners to buy Chinese bonds and shares and help the yuan to become a global currency.” (p 13)
The danger of instability, says Foulis, is pressingly important, especially if China slows down. But China’s growth is still nudging 7%, and even bearish private forecasters think 5% is plausible. China wants to be an economic superpower at its own terms. Trade is still largely in dollar terms but there are indications that although the yuan has only made slight progress so far, it will gradually gain clout. “Foreign firms could be offered discounts or win brownie points if they buy from China using the redback. Samsung, a South Korean colossus, plans to settle flows between its Chinese subsidiaries and its headquarters in yuan.” (p 14)
The articles of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) were signed in Beijing in June 2015 “by 50 countries, including 13 members of NATO as well as such cosy bedfellows as Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia (the main holdouts are American, Canada, Japan and Mexico). It will have $20 billion of paid-in capital and a further $80 billion of callable capital. China has 26% of the votes, giving it a veto over hiring and firing the bank’s boss, big capital raisings, constitutional changes and booting out members. America may be uneasy about that, but China could point out that it is supplying 30% of the capital and that it is mimicking America’s vetoes at the IMF and the World Bank.” (pp 13-14)
The Economist’s global economic review concludes (p 16):
If China’s economy turns out to be a house of cards, the country’s claim to global economic superpower status will soon be exposed as hollow. If it becomes ever more autocratic, it will need to become ever more closed to guard against capital flight and foreign influences, which will limit its capacity to affect the world economy beyond its borders. But if it manages to keep growing, to open up and reform, then America will have to reach an accommodation with it some day. Why not start now?
Joseph Nye of Harvard University is a leading American political scientist who has long been active in the study of transnational relations and world politics. He developed the concept of “soft power” in the late 1980s and wrote a book on it in 2004. Wikipedia describes soft power as the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction; it is non-coercive; and the currency of soft power is culture, political values, and foreign policies. It describes the ability to co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion.
Soft power is widely embraced by today’s world leaders, including President Xi Jinping who announced in 2014 that “we should increase China’s soft power, give a good Chinese narrative and better communicate China’s message to the world.” The Monocle Soft Power Survey found in 2014 that the US currently holds the top spot on soft power, followed by Germany, Great Britain, Japan, France, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Denmark and Canada. The Monocle survey ranks the 30 countries which briefly stated “best attract favour from other nations through culture, sport, cuisine, design, diplomacy and beyond”.
Economics according to Nye fits between soft and hard power, the former based on culture, political values and foreign policies (as stated above), the latter on coercion and payment. Seldom in history have economically small or weak nations dominated others. Economics is a key factor in shaping great power status, alone or in combination with other influences. He defends the concept against critics labelling it analytically fuzzy: “Soft power is not a form of idealism or liberalism. It is simply a form of power, one way of getting desired outcomes.”
According to Wikipedia, popular culture and mass media are regularly identified as main sources of soft power. The influence of British culture has manifested itself in three Olympic opening and closing ceremonies in London, the international influence of British broadcasts and print media (like The Economist, the journal that inspired the present paper), and British theatre which has helped for many decades to make London one of the most visited cities in the world. Its schools and universities are popular destinations for foreign students – and a later section of this paper shows that the most prestigious British universities are up with America’s best in quality and excellence (Cambridge and Oxford are third and sixth on the current global list of 800 universities ranked from the top down.)
The Korean wave refers to the growing perception of South Korea’s culture since the late 1990s. International public opinion of the country has been improving steadily, and culture and tradition are accepted as the most important contributing factors. In her inauguration speech in 2013, President Park Geun-Hye said: “In the 21st century, culture is power.”
Tertiary education is an increasingly important expression of national culture, and a tool of soft power. Annual assessments of universities to rank them for quality have been conducted since 2004. This paper presents a statistical comparison of the quality of universities for the 2015-16 academic year, showing Australia in a fairly strong position compared with other English-speaking countries (see last part of this paper).
Jonathan McClory has described the composition of the main soft power index he developed with an independent British charity, the Institute for Government. The Institute collaborated with Monocle to develop the index. It notes that soft power has become more influential in the British approach in the UK’s approach to foreign policy. First, it faces significant cuts in public spending, which means there are advantages in leveraging all available resources for influence. Secondly, the changing nature of global affairs has made these more suited to soft power mechanisms – “soft power transcends the elitism of classic diplomacy by putting the increasingly well-informed global public into play.” (p 2)
The British report contains a section called “Towards a softer future?” commenting on the basis of the analysis: “Perhaps the most surprising result of the index is China’s showing as 17th” [out of 26 listed countries]. The top 10 countries in the 2014 survey were much the same that McClure found in 2011, when the ranking was France, UK, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Finland and the Netherlands. 
The soft power index is composed of five sub-indices (Chart 1). Each contains several “metrics” detailed in the following list:
Subjective expert panel measures include quality of high and popular culture output, cuisine (quality of national food and drink), a measure of cultural icons (exemplified by footballer David Beckham), overall quality of national airline, global effectiveness of head of government, and reputation of embassies and diplomats.
Two comments: First, it seems logical that soft power gets to be measured by a range of “soft” indicators, and it is welcomed as yet another example of the statistical inventiveness that is expanding our understanding of the world. Hard numbers are increasingly seen to have limited scope, and they are often only seemingly accurate. Secondly, the “cultural” indicators in the soft power index appear not just under "culture" but also under diplomacy (cultural missions) and education (all three “metrics” shown above, including top universities which were already a planned part of this paper before we discovered the soft power index). Nor is culture far from the core of the government indicators, and arguably an essential part of innovative activity. It is explicit in the subjective expert panel measures.
Broadly defined culture, in short, is an integral part of the understanding of soft power, and this focus is retained when we narrow it to arts-related activities. In effect, music and the other arts are associated with the general theme of this paper, which is the challenge of global leadership. Joseph Nye posed the following question in an article in The Atlantic Magazine in June 2013: 'Do Presidents Really Steer Foreign Policy?'. He found that they do, but to a large extent by doing things that are not what leadership experts and the public want and expect from them. Americans extol the virtues of transformational leaders who set out bold objectives and take risks to change the world. Transactional leaders with more modest goals tend to be downplayed – often unfairly – as managers rather than visionaries.
Transformational leaders such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman made bets on entering World War 2 and subsequently containing the Soviet Union – but both presidents acted only after cautious initial approaches, and America’s actual declaration of war was provoked by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson mistakenly bet that Vietnam would prove to be a game of dominoes. George W. Bush aspired to be a transformational leader when he ordered the attack on Iraq, but failed in gaining reputation as such.
Transformational leaders have played a crucial role (just think of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela), and FDR and Truman made indelible contributions to the making of the American era which persisted through the 20th century. So did Richard Nixon when he went to China in 1971 (incidentally preceded by Australia’s Gough Whitlam’s visit a month previously – himself a transformational leader in several respects).
But many desisted, like President Eisenhower who in the 1950s refused to follow the military’s recommendations to use nuclear weapons during the Korean War and other crises. What would the world have done, he asked in 1954, if Russia had been destroyed, leaving an unmanageable mess “from the Elbe to Vladivostok” torn up and wrecked?
Transformational leaders are important because they make choices that most other leaders would not. But a key question is how much risk a democratic public wants its leaders to take in public policy. The answer very much depends on the context, and that context is enormously complex. … We live in a world of diverse cultures, and we know very little about social engineering and how to “build nations.”
Decline … is a misleading description of the current state of American power – one that President Obama has thankfully rejected. American influence is not in absolute decline, and in relative terms there is a reasonable probability that the country will remain more powerful than any other single state in the coming decades. … No one has a crystal ball, but the National Intelligence Council may be correct in its 2012 projection that although the unipolar moment is over, the US most likely will remain primus inter pares at least until 2030 because of the multifaceted nature of its power and the legacies of its leadership.
All of this suggests that President Obama and his successors should beware of thinking that transformational proclamations are the key to successful adaptation amid these rapidly changing times. American power and leadership will remain crucial to stability and prosperity at home and abroad. But presidents will be better served by remembering their transactional predecessors’ observance of the credo “Above all, do no harm” than by issuing stirring calls for transformational change.
In summary, there is an important distinction between political leaders who have had the opportunity to introduce successful transformational policies, and leaders who have been largely developing policies within an existing framework. China had a highly transformational leader in Deng Xiaoping who led the country through its far-reaching market-economy reform which determined the subsequent economic success. The current Chinese regime is more transactional despite its current behaviour in the South China Sea. The Obama administration is also largely transactional (as it should be according to Nye), despite current challenges to its economic and financial policies.
Whether the future balance of power will change without either nation (or others) becoming more transformational is a highly complex issue, and will depend on other circumstances which should be captured by the scenarios. It is uncertain whether soft power and the passage of time will be the main factors determining the issue, or whether bolder top-level political decision-making will happen. There are other players in the field that could eventually influence the status of the existing and emerging superpowers, including the European Union, Russia, India and Latin America. MENA (The Middle East and North Africa) is a conundrum that is unlikely to go away in a hurry, and soft power is not the first term that comes to mind in that context.
But China and America will remain the main players for a while.
Universities are a prime expression of a nation’s cultural life, intimately connected with national education policy which is a key dimension of cultural planning, or should be. It gets squeezed by other budgetary priorities and by a host of other political considerations, but its cultural importance should be beyond dispute. We have taken the opportunity to present some statistical evidence which puts Australia and other mainly English-speaking countries into a global perspective.
The QS selection criteria and their weights are as follows:
Of 4,297 universities on the global list, 400 were given published scores, the next 400 were ranked without the score being shown, and the rest (3,497) were not ranked. The maximum ranking of 100 went to one university only (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT), the 150 top universities scored from 61.5 to 100, and the 400th university in the ranking scored 35.0. So the quality range is very wide even within the top 400. The ranking for each university can be further examined online for each of 36 subjects, and by faculty, region, and “best student city”.
“Best student city” puts Australia in a remarkably strong position: Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth are all mentioned in a list of 50 cities, being ranked 9th, 12th, 22nd, 26th, and equal 39th, respectively. These statistics measure four components: student mix, desirability, employer industry and affordability. Only the US has more cities in the top 50, but only one more (seven) despite its population being more than 13 times larger than Australia’s. The UK is in third place with four (though this includes London with the only perfect “100” score as a student city).
The 150 top-ranked universities in Table 1 represent only 3.5% of the 4,297 universities in the 2015-16 QS review. This does make them elite institutions but the assessment is skewed because universities have a dual mission as research centres and educating people to take up a professional job rather than becoming academics.
We can safely assume that the research orientation of the top-ranked universities is higher than for those further down the hierarchy, but all universities, whether or not in the top categories, also play a crucial role teaching professional skills for the general workforce.
Table 1 divides the 150 top-ranked universities into six equal groups, from the “deep blue” column showing the 25 at the very top, to the “light blue” group ranked 126-150th. This identifies the US as dominant at the very top with 11 of the 25 universities (44%). All but one of these American universities are part of the historically defined Ivy League. Six British universities belong to the top 25, led by Cambridge and Oxford which as noted are ranked 3rd and 6th. Australia is represented by the Australian National University in Canberra (ranked 19th). Canada also has one in the top group, and the remaining six are located in Asia (Singapore two, China one) and Europe (Switzerland two, France one).
Australian universities are well placed in the ranking (Table 2). Five are ranked below 50th and every mainland state and Canberra becomes included when the University of Adelaide joins as #113 (still a high rank). Both Melbourne and Sydney have two universities at global rank 67 or better. Twenty-one Australian universities receive a formal score as part of the top 400, and 10 others receive a ranking without a score within the first 800.
The 31 universities in Table 2 represent 47% of the total Australian list of 66. Of the 31, NSW leads with nine followed by Victoria with seven, followed by Queensland and Western Australia with four each, South Australia with three, the ACT with two, and Tasmania and the Northern Territory with one each. This is roughly in accordance with population patterns, suggesting that high-quality university education is available in the whole of Australia including the remote north. Queensland has a recognised ranked university in the north, James Cook in Townsville (ranked 387th). It has a campus even further north, in Cairns.
Table 3 shows the full range of universities including the majority that are not ranked. The Ivy League, as we have seen, is in a class of its own, with 80% in the top 50. The situation is vastly different for the mix of other American universities, so the nation has the lowest percentage of universities in the top 50 of any of the five “English-speaking” countries (3.4%). Australia shines with the highest proportion in the top 50 (7.3%), way above Britain and Canada as well.
At the other end of the scale, New Zealand is actually best represented among these five countries with only 33% unranked universities. Australia is in second position (53% unranked), and Canada in third (63%). More than 70% of American and British universities are unlisted for quality in the full QS list.
The evidence is summarised in Chart 2. The dark blue and light blue bars to the left represent the top 150 universities with Australia on top at about 12% of all its universities, compared with 9% in the UK, about 8% in Canada and New Zealand, and 7% in the US.
The red bars represent the rest of the 800 ranked universities. New Zealand shows an impressive proportion (58%), leaving only four of the nation’s 12 universities unranked. Consequently New Zealand has the lowest proportion of unranked universities as shown by the yellow bar. We haven’t checked why, but there may be a relatively greater representation of mainstream city universities more likely to obtain a ranking than provincial universities. These five nations all do better than the average for all countries shown by the bottom bar. Globally, as we have noted, the top 150 comprise only 3.5% of the 4,297 universities, half the proportion found for the US and an even smaller proportion for the other countries in Chart 2.
Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, 31 October 2015.