What HE students pay and what support they are given

Countries around the world can be roughly divided into four groups according to two factors: the level of university tuition fees charged and the financial support available through each country’s student financial aid system, according to the latest OECD report, Education at a Glance 2017, writes Geoff Maslen.

Group One

Group one comprises the Nordic European countries, including Finland and Norway, where students are not charged any tuition fee and the majority of them benefit from public financial support when enrolled in higher education. In these countries, 55% of students benefit from public grants, scholarships or loans.

Luxembourg is very similar, with low tuition fees along with high financial support from the state. As of 2017, however, Finland has decided to introduce tuition fees for students coming from outside the European Free Trade Area. The OECD analysts say this change may discourage international students from enrolling in tertiary education in these countries.

Group Two

Group two is composed of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. In these countries, annual tuition fees charged by public and private universities for bachelor degrees are relatively high, exceeding US$4,000. But at least 80% of tertiary students also receive financial support in the form of public loans or scholarships and grants.

Since 1995, the UK has moved to this group from those countries with lower tuition fees and less-developed student-support systems. The Netherlands can be considered as moving to this group from the Nordic countries because tuition fees there have increased while the student support system has developed.

Despite the high tuition fees, countered by the financial support to students, enrolments in bachelor degree programmes are above the OECD average for this group.

Group Three

Group three comprises Chile, Japan and South Korea (OECD, 2015), where most students pay high tuition fees for bachelor degrees in public institutions and student-support systems are somewhat less developed than those countries in the former groups.

Tuition fees range from around US$4,600 in South Korea to US$5,200 in Japan and US$7,700 in Chile. However Japan has recently implemented reforms to improve the financial support system available to students, including a grant-type scholarship scheme, increased interest-free student loans, and the introduction of an income-based repayment system via flexible monthly repayments after graduation.

Group Four

Group four includes Austria, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland where public universities charge lower tuition fees than most other countries (lower than US$1,700 on average), but offer only limited public sector financial support to students, and then targeting only specific groups.

Turkey is moving from group four to group one, as no tuition fees have been charged as from the academic year 2012-13. Despite the lower tuition fees, however, the entry rate into bachelor programmes in Austria and Italy is lower than the OECD average.