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Education less and less affordable

A university education is becoming less and less affordable for students in 40 countries around the world, according to the report “Global Changes in Tuition Fee Policies and Student Assistance” by the Canadian consulting group Higher Education Strategy Associates.


Photo: Andrea Damm/

Throughout the OECD countries government support for higher education only barely kept up with inflation last year. And the outlook for 2012 is even less rosy “given the debt crisis in the Eurozone”, the report states. Drawing on data from 40 nations, the report says cuts in higher education spending in 2011 were especially heavy in Brazil, Italy, Pakistan and the Ukraine. Universities in America, Britain, Ja-pan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, and Thailand also saw public funding fall. The report claims students in Britain, Italy, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland also faced rising tuition fees but received no increases in financial assistance.

Fees rose by 5 per cent in America for example. “Students in the United States ap-peared to experience the greatest decrease in affordability in 2011, as they faced increases in tuition fees that exceeded inflation coupled with decreases in available financial assistance. Neither trend is expected to reverse course in the next two years,” the report says. The U.S. was the only one of the nearly 40 countries sur-veyed where financial assistance available to students was cut and fees were in-creased. For example the year-round Pell Grant system was eliminated and several other grant programmes were cut or dropped for the 2011/12 academic year.

But there is positive news, too. The report says students in France, Germany, Swe-den and Saudi Arabia appear to be facing decreasing barriers to higher education given that there were increases in financial assistance without any changes in tuition fees. Similarly, in Colombia, small tuition fee increases were more than matched by significant boosts to financial aid. Nevertheless: “Even in those countries where governments have maintained or increased higher education funding levels, the trend towards more private investment continues unabated,” says the report. “This means that higher education systems will come under greater pressure to extract revenue from students.”

The report shows that in virtually every region of the world, increasing enrolments, rising costs and the “ongoing competition for public resources from other critical public sector services”, have forced universities to generate additional income from higher tuition fees, donations, faculty consulting and hiring out their facilities.

"Countries in the developing world experiencing both significant population growth, such as Brazil, India, much of Africa, and rising participation rates are struggling 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 among previously marginalised groups of students."

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