US tops Soft-Power Index for fourth year

According to the Higher Education Policy Institute’s annual Soft-Power Index, 65 serving world leaders were educated in the US, followed by 57 in the UK, 30 in France, and Russia and Australia each accounting for 10 world leaders.

When the UK-based think tank began measuring the number of serving world leaders educated in other countries in 2017, the UK was at the head of the pack, “just pipping the US to the post”, HEPI director Nick Hillman said.

“The US has gradually built up a commanding lead that is coming to look unbeatable, at least in the short term”

“In each year since, the UK has continued to perform well but the US has gradually built up a commanding lead that is coming to look unbeatable, at least in the short term,” he noted.

“This year, the fifth iteration of the Soft-Power Index shows the US has educated 65 serving world leaders, eight more than the UK on 57. France remains comfortably in third place, some way above Russia and Australia.

“But France has nonetheless seen a significant drop over the past couple of years in the number of serving world leaders who were educated in the country.”

France peaked in 2018 and 2019 when calculations found that 40 world leaders studied in the country. In 2021, research found this had dropped to 30 leaders. The UK remains in a “comfortable second place”, HEPI continued.

“The good news for those who care about the UK’s standing in the world is that the rules for international students from outside the EU have recently improved,” Hillman stated.

“The old target of significantly reducing total net inward migration to under 100,000 has given way to a bold new target to host ‘at least 600,000‘ international students a year by the end of this decade.”

The 2012 post-study work visa effectively reinstated as the new graduate route visa, along with the net migration policy change, are welcome, but obstacles to crossing national boundaries remain due to both Brexit and Covid-19. The new policies “do not ensure the UK’s continued strong performance in measures such as the HEPI Soft-Power Index”, he continued.

Even better post-study work rules would further ensure the rate of growth in the number of students arriving from other countries rises to match the recent impressive growth rates in the number arriving from China, Hillman contended.

“That is important in part to limit our over-reliance on a single part of the world,” he said.

Leaders educated in the UK include University of Warwick graduate and newly elected president of Bolivia Luis Arce, SOAS and LSE grad and prime minister of Jordan Bisher Al-Khasawneh, LSE grad and prime minister of Nepal Sher Bahadur Deuba, along with presidents of the Seychelles Wavel Ramkalawan (University of Birmingham) and Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan (University of Manchester).

The 65 notable leaders educated in the US featured Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa & Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi from Egypt, Kyriakos Mitsotakis from Greece, Michael D. Higgins from Ireland and Lee Hsien Loong from Singapore.

Former prime minister of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani was also included in the US statistics.

Several people have been educated in more than one country, including Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Prince Albert II of Monaco and Hage Geingob of Namibia, among others.

World leaders are defined as heads of state and heads of government, such as monarchs, presidents and prime ministers, and HEPI looked at 357 positions around the world.

“Clearly, the HEPI Soft-Power Index is a rough-and-ready way of measuring the influence of different states. It should be supplemented with lots of other information before coming to firm conclusions about the global standing of any one country,” Hillman added.

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