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The top 15 smartest European countries - Belgium ranks seventh

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  • Switzerland ranks as the smartest European country, scoring 81.1 out of 100 . The Nordic countries make up 50% of the top 10 . Belgium is ranked seventh, with a score of 69.12 out of 100 . Switzerland has been named the smartest European country according to a new study. 

Online tutoring school TutorSpace has compiled an index of 17 factors relating to intelligence and development in 44 European countries. They grouped these factors into four categories: 

  • Education Quality and Access 
  • Higher Education and Research 
  • Literacy and Digital Literacy 
  • Government Investment 

Using these categories, the team then gave each country a score out of 100 and, finally, they calculated an overall score out of 100 and ranked the countries from highest to lowest. 

Switzerland ranks first with a total score of 81.1 out of 100. Switzerland tops the list, scoring over 75 in each of the four categories and having the second-highest score in education quality and access. The Swiss government spend 14.24% of its expenditure on education which helps to increase attainment in schools and universities. 33% of 25–64-year-olds in Switzerland have some tertiary education, which is classed as university level. 

Denmark is second and is the highest-scoring Nordic country, with 7.87 out of 100. Denmark’s highest score is in literacy and digital literacy, with 98.87% of its population using the internet. Denmark also has a high number of books published each year, with an average of 2,849, adding to its literacy score. Denmark’s government also spends 11.94% of its expenditure on education. 

Finland is close behind in third with 77.57 out of 100. According to the data, Finland has a higher PISA score than Switzerland in both reading and science. The government spends around 10% on education and Finns spend on average 12.87 years in education. Finland also scores highly in literacy and digital literacy, with 92.81% of its population using the internet. 

Iceland is in fourth place, scoring 73.36 out of 100. Iceland has a perfect score of 100 in literacy and digital literacy. A tradition in Iceland is jolabokaflod, when everyone receives a book catalogue for Christmas; Icelandic crime novels are especially popular and are among the 5,762 books that are published on average each year. The data also shows that Iceland’s government spends the most out of all European countries on education, an average of 15.28%. Iceland also has a high percentage of its population online with 99.69%. 

Norway ranks fifth with a score of 72.84 out of 100. Norway also has a high score for literacy and digital literacy and according to the data, 99% of the population can use the internet. Authors in Norway also publish a staggering 4,555 books on average each year. Government investment is Norway’s lowest scoring category and the data shows that only 2.28% of expenditure is used for research and development.  

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Sweden is sixth in the rankings, scoring 70.53 out of 100. Government investment is Sweden’s highest scoring category, as well as being the highest among the top 15. 3.53% of government expenditure is used for research and development, while 13.64% is used for education. 

Rank Country Index Score Population (2023) Education Quality & Access Higher Education & Research Literacy & Digital Literacy Government Investment 
Switzerland 81.1 8,563,760 84.92 78.17 76.24 79.8 
Denmark 77.87 5,946,984 78.91 77.25 89.28 68.14 
Finland 77.57 5,614,571 81.55 78.19 79.94 61.15 
Iceland 73.36 360,872 71.99 68.02 100 73.64 
Norway 72.84 5,597,924 73.57 74.08 96.03 50.87 
Sweden 70.53 10,536,338 76.7 56.84 76.16 83.21 
Belgium 69.12 11,913,633 76.62 58.8 67.98 73.01 
Netherlands 68.97 17,463,930 74.54 63.67 83.76 54.54 
Estonia 68.87 1,202,762 91.86 43.78 70.21 59.83 
10 United Kingdom 67.83 68,138,484 81.9 58.36 72.13 43.94 
11 Germany 64.84 84,220,184 79.74 48.73 63.28 60.24 
12 Ireland 63.43 5,323,991 84.78 45.98 63.89 39.75 
13 Austria 62.26 8,940,860 69.67 53.51 64.28 59.98 
14 Slovenia 61.68 2,099,790 74.7 47.44 67.47 53.1 
15 Luxembourg 60.05 660,924 72.58 51.03 71.3 35.18 

Belgium ranks seventh on the list, scoring 69.12 out of 100. Belgium’s low score in higher education and research is affected by only two universities in the country being among the top 100 in the world. This category also includes scientific articles and patent applications.  

Netherlands ranks eighth with 68.97 out of 100, followed closely by Estonia in ninth with 68.87 out of 100. Estonia has the highest score out of the top 15 in education quality and access and their government spends 14.35% of its expenditure on education. While the Netherlands scores highly in literacy and digital literacy, with 92% of its population using the internet.

The UK makes the top ten, scoring 67.83 out of 100. The UK score for education quality and access is the fourth highest on the list. Eight of its universities are among the top 100, and students spend an average of 13.41 years in education. Government investment is the lowest scoring category for the UK, with 1.71% of expenditure used for research and development and 10.56 for education. 

Germany ranks eleventh, with a score of 64.84 out of 100. Germany scores low on higher education and research. One of the country’s universities ranks among the top 100 and Germany has had 1,300 scientific journals published on average each year. 

Ireland is in twelfth place with 63.43 out of 100. Ireland’s lowest scoring category is government investment. The data shows that similarly to the UK, only 1.23% of expenditure is used for research and development. 

Rounding out the list are Austria with 62.26 out of 100, Slovenia with 61.68 out of 100, and finally Luxembourg with 60.05 out of 100

Patrick Nadler, CEO of TutorSpace and head of the German national tutoring association commented on the findings: 

“It is surprising that out of the largest countries in Europe, only Germany and the UK make an appearance on this list. 

“The data highlights key areas where each country can improve but also shows where a country is already doing well. Technology and research are areas where many countries need to increase spending in order to find ways to adapt to our changing world. 

“Education is another area where improvement can be made, by increasing budgets and using external tutors alongside state learning, more people will be able to improve their situations and share their skills and knowledge.”  

Sources: https://tutorspace.de UNESCO, World Bank, United Nations, OECD and Webometrics  

Methodology: Full list of sources and methodology can be viewed using this link 

The full data including all 17 factors for the top 15 countries can be viewed here: Full raw data (view only) 

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