A recent study by Universitas 21 rated national systems of higher education and placed Canada on 3rd place worldwide, after the United States and Sweden. The measures for the analysis were grouped under four main headings: resources, enviornment, connectivity, and outputs. The Executive Summary points out that:
[a] nation’s economic development depends crucially on the presence of an educated and skilled workforce and on technological improvements that raise productivity. The higher education sector contributes to both these needs: it educates and trains; it undertakes pure and applied research. Furthermore, in a globalised world, a quality higher education system that is well-connected internationally facilitates the introduction of new ideas, and fosters trade and other links with foreign countries, through the movement of students and researchers across national frontiers.
The full report can be found here.