Students walk through Oxford city centre Oli Scarff/Getty Images

How Universities Can Soften the Brexit Blow

Despite weakening growth, the United Kingdom continues to punch above its weight economically, and remains a world leader in higher education. But to sustain this success after Brexit, British universities must contribute more to the fundamental drivers of productivity growth and wealth creation.

LONDON – The United Kingdom ranks around 22nd among countries in terms of population. Its economy is somewhere between the fifth- and seventh-largest in the world in terms of nominal GDP (in US dollars), which is comparable to the economies of India and France. In terms of wealth – that is, GDP adjusted for population – it ranks anywhere from 22nd to 30th.

It is not particularly easy for a national economy to be both big and also very wealthy. Many of the world’s wealthiest countries tend to be quite small in terms of population and nominal GDP. In fact, of the world’s 20 wealthiest countries, only around ten are also among the most populous. Chief among those is the United States, which currently leads the world in terms of nominal GDP and is among the world’s most populous and wealthiest countries. So the US does particularly well, and the UK also does quite well.

But whereas the US is home to 31 of the world’s top 100 universities, the UK is home to 16, including four of the top ten, according to the reputable QS World University Rankings. Given the UK’s smaller size, that is an impressive indicator. Moreover, four of the top 100 universities are located just in London. And, at 16%, the UK’s share of the top 100 universities is four times its share of global GDP.

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