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UK Outperforms US in Nurturing Global Leaders

clock iconCreated At:24 August, 2023
write iconCreated By:Allaa Ashraf

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The United States is still leading the "Soft-Power Index," which counts the number of world leaders it has trained; however, for the first time, the UK has closed this gap considerably.

Since 2017, the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) has released an annual ranking that measures the number of contemporary world leaders—including presidents, prime ministers, and monarchs—who completed their higher education in nations other than their own.

While the UK initially held the top rank in its first year, the US surpassed it in 2018 and has maintained a growing advantage ever since.

But in the last year, the number of world leaders who received their education in the US dropped from 67 to 65, while the number who received their education in the UK increased from 56 to 58.

Hepi noted that both countries have educated leaders from around a quarter of all countries in the world because of their strong university systems, global ties, and English language dominance.

Following these two countries are France (30), Russia (10), Switzerland (7), Australia (6), Italy (6), and Spain (6).

Noteworthy leaders who received education in the UK include Belgium's King Philippe, Hungary's Viktor Orbán, and Japan's Emperor Naruhito.

New additions this year encompass Czechia's Petr Pavel, Fiji's Sitiveni Rabuka, Montenegro's Jakov Milatović, and Slovenia's Nataša Pirc Musar. In 2023, Nigeria and Nepal, which previously had leaders educated in the UK, elected new presidents without ties to UK universities.

The US proudly includes Spain's King Felipe VI among its alumni. This year's figures were augmented by the inclusion of the UK's own Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who pursued an MBA at Stanford University as a Fulbright Scholar.

Hepi's Director, Nick Hillman, remarked, "The count of world leaders educated in foreign nations mirrors the status of different educational systems and is a reliable gauge of the soft power wielded by various countries. It's a remarkable accomplishment that over a quarter of the world's countries have a highly esteemed leader—either a head of state or a prime minister—educated in the UK."

Hillman cautioned that recent policy shifts in the UK have led to a less favourable climate for international students seeking to study at its universities. He added, "The recent rhetoric from the Home Office and the upcoming stricter regulations on student dependents imply that numerous UK institutions will need to put in more effort to maintain their appeal to individuals outside the country."

Since there is usually a significant lag between an individual's formal education and their rise to a prominent position within their native country, the index only counts leaders who received their education abroad and only partially reflects historical patterns.


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