News | GLOBAL: Higher education becomes more costly
University students are having to meet more of the cost of their higher education in countries with existing mass higher education systems and "ageing demographics" - and the trend towards reduced public spending on universities looks set to continue. A new report, released last week, says governments facing budgetbalancing exercises, such as Britain and some US states including California, are already imposing cuts.
Meanwhile, in emerging countries with burgeoning higher education systems, such as China, India and Brazil, the report says efforts are being made to expand access quickly to new student populations.
Tuition Fees and Student Financial Assistance: 2010 Global Year in Review was prepared by Higher Education Strategy Associates, a Toronto-based company set up last year as an extension of the Canadian Education Project.
The 60-page report reviews the situation facing higher education institutions in 39 countries, including a dozen in Europe and 13 in Asia. It says that although the global situation for tuition and student financial aid policies did not change drastically last year, "major changes to the affordability and accessibility of higher education around the world are on their way".
The Year in Review offers an overview of trends in higher education financing in the G40 countries that account for more than 90% of global enrolments and research production. Iran was excluded from the list because of lack of data.
Although the G40 is not an exhaustive global list, the authors say that by examining the main trends in these countries, "a truly global picture can be built up without the need to examine all of the globe's 200-odd states".
"All around the world, the pace of change in higher education is accelerating. In the face of continued increases in participation, demographic change and - in the West at least - profound fiscal crises, higher education institutions are increasingly being required to raise funds from students as opposed to relying on transfers from governments," the introduction to the report states.
"Indeed, the pace of policy change is coming so quickly that it is difficult to keep track of all the relevant developments in different parts of the world. In this, the inaugural edition, we outline the major changes relating to higher education affordability around the world in 2010."
Alex Usher, HESA President and co-author of the report, says the survey reveals that countries around the world are increasingly turning to private sources, such as tuition fees and income from sales to fund their higher education systems.
"In much of the world, we may have experienced 'peak higher education' as populations age and competition for scarce public resources intensifies," Usher says.
Despite this gloomy forecast, the report also notes that in more than three-quarters of the G-40 countries, there were no increases in tuition fees last year and one in three even provided a boost to student financial aid. But the authors emphasise that in OECD countries with their "existing mass higher education systems and ageing demographics", falling public spending and increased private investment in higher education will continue.
They say events of last year may be seen as "stage-setting for the coming years" and nowhere is the trend to reduced public investment more evident than in the UK.
Although there were no significant changes to tuition fees or student aid last year, British universities will be able to increase fees dramatically from 2012 on. And while more student loans will be offered, the government "will not be making efforts to reduce the net cost of education to low-income students".
"States that did make significant policy changes, including Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and US states like California, appear to have increased the net price to students, either by raising tuition or reducing student aid," says Pamela Marcucci, HESA Director of Global Policy Studies and Initiatives, and co-author of the report.
"It appears likely that this trend will continue in the years to come."
Other notable developments in tuition and student aid around the globe include:
* Governments and institutions in countries with declining numbers of young people and contracting higher education systems, such as Japan and South Korea, are looking for ways to appeal to non-traditional local students and to attract international students while exploring the feasibility of opening overseas campuses.
* Other countries such as Brazil, China and India, and most countries in the developing world experiencing rapid population growth coupled with growing participation rates, struggle to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of qualified students into higher education with limited government resources. Moreover, many of these countries are intensifying their efforts to expand participation, especially among previously marginalised groups of students.
* In Brazil, the REUNI investment programme is aimed at doubling the number of students in public institution in four years.
* China, which had 29 million full-time tertiary students in 2010, plans to increase its university gross enrolment rate from 24% to 40% in the next 10 years (though a substantial portion of this will come from a shrinking of the university-age population rather than an expansion of places).
* India, with about 14 million higher education students at present, plans to increase the enrolment rate from 12% to 30% by 2020.
*Australia experienced a small increase in tuition along with a large increase in student aid, while the Netherlands increased tuition somewhat while decreasing available student aid.
* Students in Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines probably faced the largest increases in barriers to education in 2010. Even though tuition did not rise, all experienced major cuts to student financial assistance.
* Students in Chile, China, Germany, India, Nigeria, the Russian Federation and Spain, on the other hand, face decreasing barriers although in some cases the improvement is likely to be quite small.
* Globalisation trends influenced higher education in 2010 as students travelled abroad to study in great numbers despite the economic crisis and institutions and governments intensified their internationalisation efforts in order to gain prestige and profit from new markets. As of 2007, more than 2.5 million students were studying outside their home countries and the number is expected to rise to seven million international students by 2020.
* As of 2010, there were more than 162 branch campuses around the world, mainly in the Middle East and Asia.
"Looking forward, contracting state allocations to public higher education systems in the US are likely to lead to tuition fee increases which will not be offset this time by federal stimulus funding," the report states.
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