From Merkel to Macron: These are some of the world’s most educated leaders
Academic credentials are held in high regard for the people in high state offices. Source: Michael Kappeler/Pool/AFP

Does the type of degree you pursue play a strong role in shaping your political career? By looking at the academic credentials of some of our current world leaders, the answer would be a “no”. Despite that, academic credentials are held in high regard for the people in high state offices. Some world leaders have courted controversy when their academic credentials were called into question.

Chinese President Xi Jinping obtained his doctoral degree in law at the prestigious Tsinghua University, but reports are rife that his doctoral thesis may have been plagiarised; India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s education qualifications were called into question by right to information (RTI) activists, prompting the University of Delhi and Gujarat University to release statements supporting his claim that he had graduated from these institutions.

Law and political science seem like the subjects most relevant to be a politician, but do they prepare you for a career in government better than others? Not necessarily, as this list of the world’s most educated world leaders show:

Germany: Angela Merkel

world leaders

Merkel was a research scientist before becoming a politician. Source: Michael Kappeler/ Pool/AFP

The Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel is among the current world leaders with a PhD under her belt. The 66-year-old became the first female German chancellor back in 2005. Before that, she studied physics at Leipzig University from 1973 to 1978 and earned her PhD in quantum chemistry in 1986 from the German Academy of Sciences.

Iceland: Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson has a string of academic credentials under his belt. He studied history and political science at Warwick University and finished his BA degree in 1991. 

Following this, the 52-year-old graduated with a master’s degree in history from the University of Iceland in 1997. He also studied at Oxford University in England and graduated with an Master of Studies in history in 1999. In 2003, he completed his PhD in history at the Queen Mary, University of London, according to his official website.

Singapore: Lee Hsien Loong 

world leaders

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attended a Russelg Group university. Source: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP

Lee is the prime minister of one of the world’s top financial centres. He graduated with a BA in Mathematics and a Diploma in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge. He was also a Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and received a Master in Public Administration.

Iran: Hassan Rouhani 

According to Al-Jazeera, President Hassan Rouhani began studying religion at an early age and attended religious seminaries and classes taught by prominent Shia scholars in the 60s. In 1969, he attended the University of Tehran and received his bachelor’s degree in judicial law in 1972. He also received a master’s degree in public law and a doctorate at Glasgow Caledonian University.

France: Emmanuel Macron

President Emmanuel Macron became the youngest president in French history at the age of 39 in 2017. He studied philosophy at Paris Nanterre University and also completed his master’s of public affairs at Sciences Po and graduated from the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA). 

Sciences Po and ENA are prestigious French schools; according to ENA’s website, the school trains top-level civil servants to work in the French and foreign civil service and prepares them for their future responsibilities at national, European and international level.

Denmark: Mette Frederiksen


Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is the youngest Prime Minister in Danish history. Source: Aris Oikonomou/AFP

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has been making headlines for postponing her wedding three times (albeit, finally tying the knot in July), no thanks to the pandemic and the challenges and responsibilities that come with being the prime minister of a country. More than making the news with her nuptials, the 42-year-old is the youngest Prime Minister in Danish history. She has a Bachelor of Administration and Social Science from Aalborg University, as well as a Master’s in African Studies from the University of Copenhagen.

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