Higher Education Funding and Access in International Perspective
Table of contents(15 chapters)
This chapter considers how far political devolution has enabled the government in Wales to develop a distinctive approach to student funding. It examines in particular claims that policy choices in Wales on student funding reflect a commitment to ‘progressive universalism’, a term sometimes used by policy-makers in Wales and elsewhere to describe combining means-tested and non-means-tested benefits. The chapter also explores the growing use of income-contingent loans, arguing that such loans complicate debates about targeting and universalism.
Young people’s choice of higher education institution and subject are often assumed to take place in a social vacuum, ignoring the influence of family and friends. Despite a shift away from state funding of undergraduate higher education towards a cost-sharing model (Johnstone, 2004), little research has been carried out on family attitudes to debt, particularly in Scotland where home students do not pay tuition fees. This chapter explores how higher education decisions are made by Scottish domiciled students in the context of their families and the ways in which such decisions are mediated by social class.
This chapter focuses on the use of target-setting in Scottish higher education to boost participation by under-represented groups. The central question I address is whether the technology of New Public Management, such as performance indicators and targets, is likely to be useful in addressing the problem of social inequality in higher education. Traditionally, the Scottish Government has tended to adopt a light touch to university regulation and governance, using institutional carrots rather than sticks (Raffe, 2013, 2016). More recently, since the introduction of widening access outcomes agreements and the publication of the final report of the Commission on Fair Access (Scottish Government, 2015), universities have argued that the government’s interventions risk eroding university autonomy without achieving policy goals.
This chapter draws on findings from a comparative, qualitative research project investigating the decision-making of different groups of English higher education students in central England as they graduated from a Russell group university (46 interviewees) and a Post-92 university (28 interviewees). Half of the students graduated in 2014 (lower tuition fees regime) and the other half graduated in 2015 (higher tuition fees regime). The students interviewed were sampled by socio-economic background, gender, degree subject/discipline and secondary school type. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore students’ future plans and perceptions of their future job prospects. Despite higher debt levels, the 2015 sample of Russell Group graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds had a positive view of their labour market prospects and a high proportion had achieved either a graduate job or a place on a postgraduate course prior to graduation. This group had saved money whilst studying. The 2015 sample of Post-1992 University graduates (from both lower and average socio-economic backgrounds) were worried about their level of debt, future finances and labour market prospects. This chapter raises questions about whether a fairer university finance system, involving lower levels of debt for graduates from less advantaged backgrounds, might avoid some graduates’ transitions to adulthood being so strongly influenced by financial anxieties.
Differences between UK countries in HE policy and provision concerning the accessibility of HE study for students, and the costs of that study, have implications for cross-border study mobility. Those qualified for and wishing to enter HE are affected both by financial support for students and the provision of the HE service in terms of the number of places and the shape and history of the sector within their home country, and in comparison to other countries of the UK. In addition, funding policies for mobile students do not recognise social diversity and so have an unequal impact on students in relation to their socio-economic resources, a consequence of the territorial frame of reference and unequal devolution arrangements which work against a UK-wide social citizenship. Drawing on a quantitative analysis of student data, this chapter discusses the unequal conditions of access, opportunity and financial support for HE across the UK and how this may have a negative impact on the role of cross-border mobility in widening participation.
This chapter describes the nature of higher education funding and student support in the Republic of Ireland. Ireland represents an interesting case-study because of the abolition of student fees in the mid-1990s and the way in which the current crisis in higher education (HE) funding has prompted debate about the appropriate way to fund the sector. The chapter begins by providing a brief outline of the structure of Irish HE and the funding regime before examining HE admissions processes and the kinds of supports available to students. The chapter concludes by looking at trends in participation and the current debate about the future direction of funding.
This chapter examines widening access to higher education in Sweden from the 1960s onwards and contrasts the influence of two different political ideologies — social democracy and neo-liberalism. It provides an overview of the higher education system and student support. Sweden has made extensive use of alternative routes into higher education to enable access for those lacking traditional entry qualifications. These routes are outlined, changes over time are described and Sweden is compared to other European countries drawing on Eurostudent data. These data indicate that Sweden has made considerable advances in widening access through the use of alternative routes. However, the conclusion questions the extent to which current higher education policy, influenced by neo-liberalism, can lead to further progress.
Widening access to higher education with the aim of creating more social equality (or at least equal opportunities for everyone) is a long-term goal in the higher education policy of the Federal Republic of Germany. Several reforms starting in the 1960s have tried to achieve this aim by establishing new universities and funding regimes, for example introducing a student loan system (‘BAföG’) for students from families with low income or the abolition of tuition fees. As a result, we can speak about a ‘Bildungsexpansion’ (education expansion), because there are more young people in higher education in Germany than ever before. The number of the graduates has also reached record highs. Despite these achievements, access to higher education still reflects social inequalities: There are still 3.3 times more students in higher education who are children of academics than students from a non-academic background (BMBF, 2013). This chapter asks whether German widening access policies have led to greater social equality? The answer: The education expansion has mainly benefited socially advantaged groups from a middle-class background, especially women. Therefore, especially for young men from disadvantaged migrant families with a low income, access to higher education is still very difficult to attain. The experiences of the German reforms clearly show that widening access to higher education has the potential to increase social mobility and to create more social equality, but to achieve this goal there are far more policy measures needed especially policies for direct support (like ‘BAföG’) and encouragement of socially disadvantaged groups.
The Printemps Érable has become a landmark event in the history of Québec’s student movement. The Printemps Érable protesters expressed demands on several fronts, including the freezing of tuition fees, free education, the preservation of a just and universal student loans and bursaries programme, the right of access to higher education for all the province’s youth and freedom of association. The 2012 movement echoed protests in the 1950s. This chapter provides an overview of the history of student protest over fees and access to higher education in Québec and considers its implications for student struggles more widely. The Printemps Érable ultimately led to the freezing of tuition fees. It also ensured the preservation of the universal student loan and bursary programme, and reaffirmed the students’ right to free association. This chapter gives an historical overview of the student protest movement in Quebec, and ponders its impact on student struggles everywhere.
This chapter reviews the overall structure of the US financial aid system and the way in which students from underrepresented groups deal with the cost of participating in higher education. Case studies of students from underrepresented groups are used to illustrate the type of problems experienced, including financial loan guilt, economic divisions amongst undergraduates and balancing employment with full-time undergraduate study. It is noted that financial aid only factors in tuition and housing costs, but does not take account of the need to participate in the ‘student experience’. Restricted finances mean that some students are unable to take part fully in social activities or purchase books, all of which are thought to be part of the typical undergraduate experience. Thus, despite efforts to widen participation, the concept of ‘college for all’ can be considered an illusion (Glass & Nygreen, 2011) because universities fail to acknowledge the class and racial hierarchies that shape the culture, an aspect that financial aid alone cannot remove.
In this chapter we provide a brief history of student fees in Australian higher education (HE), particularly from 1974 when fees were abolished but more substantially from 1989 when they were re-introduced. Of particular interest is the impact of student fees on the equity of access in HE: what has become known in Australia as the proportional representation of ‘equity’ groups (i.e. groups defined by gender, socioeconomic status, disability, indigeneity, rurality or language background; see Martin, L. (1994). Equity and general performance indicators in higher education. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.), although latterly the focus has been on socioeconomic status (SES). Our analysis is of Australian Government policy, framed by a ‘quality of mind’ that C. W. Mills (1959, p. 14) refers to as the ‘sociological imagination’. That is, we draw attention to the absence of this imagination in much government policy, which falsely separates the personal troubles of individuals (e.g. in financing access to HE) from the public issues of societies (e.g. in universalising HE), with a tendency to ascribe responsibility for student fees to the former over the latter. In these terms, we characterise the history of access to Australian HE — specifically the role that student fees have played in this — as fluctuating from personal trouble to public issue and back again.
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