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Over one-quarter of the world’s countries are headed by someone educated in the UK

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has recently unveiled its seventh annual Soft-Power Index, shedding light on an intriguing trend: over one-quarter of the world’s countries are now led by individuals who received their education in the United Kingdom.

The UK’s influence on the world stage is making a strong comeback, highlighting the global appeal of UK higher education.

When the Soft-Power Index was introduced in 2017, the UK was the leader in educating future world leaders, surpassing even the United States. However, the US took the lead in 2018 and maintained it through 2022.

This year, things are changing. The 2023 results reveal that the gap between leaders educated in the US and those educated in the UK is shrinking, indicating a renewed influence of UK education.

According to the Index, 27% of the world’s nations have leaders educated in the UK, while 28% have leaders educated in the US. The widespread use of the English language further contributes to the popularity of UK institutions among aspiring leaders. The success of both the US and the UK in educating global leaders can be attributed to their strong university systems and global networks.

World leaders educated in countries other than their own:

US5758 (+1)62 (+4)61 (-1)65 (+4)67 (+2)65 (-2)
UK5857 (-1)59 (+2)56 (-3)58 (+2)56 (-1)58 (+2)
UK/US gap-1+1+3+5+7+11+7
France3440 (+6)40 (+/-0)35 (-5)30 (-5)31 (+1)30 (-1)
Russia910 (+1)10 (+/-0)10 (+/-0)11 (+1)11 (+/-0)10 (-1)

The Soft-Power Index, a critical resource, is often referred to by government officials and policymakers. It highlights the role of international education in shaping diplomatic relations and fostering cross-cultural understanding. This impact is evident in official documents and discussions among policymakers.

Nick Hillman, the Director of HEPI, said:

‘It is no accident that the countries that top the global university league tables are the same ones that educate the most people who go on to head up their own countries. We now have seven years of data, which confirm beyond all doubt that the US and the UK have a lead over the rest of the world that remains very difficult to beat.

‘When we published the results last year, we noted there was a more propitious environment for international students in the UK due to recent policy changes but the dial has since been turned back somewhat. Recent rhetoric from the Home Office and incoming tougher rules on student dependants mean many UK institutions will have to fight harder to maintain their attractiveness to those outside the country.’

As the world continues to evolve, education remains a key pillar of global influence. The UK’s revival in the Soft-Power Index acts as a reminder of the enduring appeal of its education system and its potential to shape the next generation of leaders worldwide. With the UK and the US leading the charge, the global stage is set for greater collaboration and understanding driven by the power of education.

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