Founded in 1997, Universitas 21 is an international network of universities, established as an "international reference point and resource for strategic thinking on issues of global significance." It currently has 24 member universities in sixteen different countries and territories. Together, there are 500,000 students and 40,000 academics and researchers associated with these universities.
The universities collaborate on many levels, undergraduate and postgraduate research, and several hundred students a year participate in the student exchange programmes, the U21 Student Mobility Progamme.
In 2001, in association with Thomson Learning, Universitas 21 formed an online university called Universitas 21 Global, with its headquarters in Singapore. The program is administered by U21pedagogica Ltd., which is chartered in Guernsey and headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thomson Learning became Cengage Learning, then sold its entire 50% in U21Global share to Mauritius based Manipal Universal Learning International for an undisclosed sum in 2007.
Since 2012, Universitas 21 has commissioned the "U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems". Produced by researchers at the University of Melbourne, this ranking aims to show which countries create a "strong environment" that allows universities to contribute to growth, provide a high-quality student experience and help institutions compete globally. It evaluates the standing of national higher education systems by providing rankings in four broad areas: resources, environment, connectivity and output. The rankings are then combined to provide an overall ranking.
Williams, Ross; de Rassenfosse, Gaetan; Jensen, Paul; Marginson, Simon (2013). "The determinants of quality national higher education systems". Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management35 (6): 599–611. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2013.854288.