Education at a Glance 2016
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Education at a Glance 2016

OECD Indicators

Education at a Glance is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. It provides key information on the output of educational institutions; the impact of learning across countries; the financial and human resources invested in education; access, participation and progression in education; and the learning environment and organisation of schools.

The 2016 edition introduces a new indicator on the completion rate of tertiary students and another one on school leaders. It provides more trend data and analysis on diverse topics, such as: teachers’ salaries; graduation rates; expenditure on education; enrolment rates; young adults who are neither employed nor in education or training; class size; and teaching hours. The publication examines gender imbalance in education and the profile of students who attend, and graduate from, vocational education.

The report covers all 35 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa).

This edition includes more than 125 figures and 145 tables. The Excel™ spreadsheets used to create them are available via the StatLinks provided throughout the publication. More data is available in the OECD Education Statistics database.

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15 Sep 2016

Indicator B5 How Much do Tertiary Students Pay and What Public Support do they Receive? You do not have access to this content

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Indicator B5 shows tuition fees charged by tertiary institutions for students in bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and short-cycle tertiary programmes. It also includes the financial support and public loans available to tertiary students, as well as repayment and remission of public loans to students.

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Chapter Highlights

  • Independent private institutions charge higher annual tuition fees than public institutions for bachelor’s or equivalent programmes in all OECD and partner countries with available data. In 2013/14, independent private institutions in some countries charged on average more than twice as much as public institutions.

  • Countries with a low level of tuition fees do not appear to achieve better access to tertiary education than those with higher fees. Australia, Denmark, New Zealand and Slovenia all have first-time entry rates to tertiary education above 70% for national students, but Denmark and Slovenia have no tuition fees, while public institutions in Australia and New Zealand charge average annual tuition fees of over USD 4 000.

  • Countries in which a large proportion of students benefit from public loans at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral or equivalent levels tend to offer the highest average annual loan per student, more than USD 4 000 in 2013/14 (or a close academic year) in all countries where the majority of students benefit from public loans.

Figure B5.1. Tuition fees charged by public and private institutions at bachelor’s or equivalent level (2013/14)
Average annual tuition fees charged to full-time national students, converted in USD using PPPs for GDP, academic year 2013/14

Note: This figure does not take into account grants, subsidies or loans that partially or fully offset the student’s tuition fees. Tuition fees should be interpreted with caution as they result from the weighted average of the main tertiary programmes and do not cover all educational institutions. However, the figures reported can be considered as good proxies and show the difference among countries in tuition fees charged by main educational institutions and for the majority of students.

1. Reference year 2011/12 for tuition fees.

2. Reference year 2014/15 for tuition fees (2014 in Korea).

3. Financial reference year 2013 and academic reference year 2012/13.

4. No tuition fees are charged by public institutions.

5. No tuition fees are charged by public and government-dependent private institutions.

6. Data refer to England only.

Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of tuition fees charged by public institutions and in alphabetical order if tuition fees are the same, except for Mexico and the United Kingdom, which do not have data for public institutions and are presented separately (in alphabetical order).

Source: OECD. Table B5.1. See Annex 3 for notes (

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OECD and partner countries have different approaches to sharing spending on tertiary education among governments, students and their families, and other private entities, and to providing financial support to students. All countries want students to be able to afford the costs of tertiary education, but some prefer to invest the resources they dedicate to this goal in lower tuition fees, while others decide to offer student loans and grants to cover tuition fees and/or living costs.

Tuition fees bridge the gap between the costs incurred by tertiary educational institutions and the revenues they receive from sources other than students and their families. Among the many factors influencing the level of costs: salaries of teachers and researchers (especially for institutions competing to hire the best in a global academic market); development of digital learning and non-teaching services (e.g. employment services, relations with companies); investments to support internationalisation; and the amount and type of research activities undertaken by faculty and staff. Tertiary educational institutions partly cover their costs through internal resources (endowments) or revenue from private sources other than students and their families (see Indicator B3). The remainder of the costs is covered by student tuition fees or by public sources.

Hence, policy decisions relating to tuition fees can affect not only the cost to students of tertiary education, but also the resources available to tertiary institutions. Some countries therefore prefer to let tertiary educational institutions charge higher tuition fees, while providing financial support to students in other ways, particularly through grants and public loans. Public loans are often available to students at better conditions than they could find on the market, typically with lower interest rates and/or conditions under which the loan is remitted or forgiven.

Public support to students and their families enables governments to encourage participation in education, while also indirectly funding tertiary institutions. Channelling funding to institutions through students may also help increase competition among institutions and better respond to student needs. Students’ support comes in many forms, including means-based subsidies, family allowances for students, tax allowances for students or their parents, or other household transfers. The trade-offs between different ways to fund tertiary education have been widely discussed in the literature, from different points of view (e.g. Barr, 2004; Borck and Wimbersky, 2014). Governments strive to strike the right balance among these different subsidies, especially in periods of financial crisis. Based on a given amount of subsidies, public support, such as tax reductions or family allowances, may provide less support for low-income students than means-tested subsidies, as tax reductions or family allowances are not targeted specifically to low-income students. However, they may still help to reduce financial disparities among households with and without children in education.

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  • The difference between public institutions and government-dependent private institutions in average annual tuition fees at the bachelor’s or equivalent level is minimal for all countries with available data.

  • Annual tuition fees for foreign students are, on average, more than USD 10 000 higher than national students’ fees in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, New Zealand and Sweden, and around USD 8 000 higher than national students’ fees in the United States.

  • Governments use a variety of strategies related to interest rates to reduce the financial burden on students, reducing interest rates and sometimes applying different interest rates before and after the end of studies.

  • Among countries with available information, the proportion of students benefitting from remission and/or forgiveness of their loans ranges from less than 2% to 10%, across countries with available data.

TrendsExpand / Collapse

From 2010 to 2014, reforms in the levels of tuition fees in tertiary education have been implemented in 10 countries out of 25 which provided data. Of these ten countries, seven combined these reforms in tuition fee systems with a change in the level of public subsidies available to students. The United Kingdom, for example, substantially increased both the maximum tuition fees cap and the tuition fee loans available to students. Hungary decreased the number of fully-financed places in tertiary institutions, increased the number of students receiving partial support and introduced a new loan system (Table B5.2).

The number of students at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral or equivalent levels who benefitted from a student loan increased in 11 out of 16 countries with available data in the decade between 2004/05 and 2014/15. Over this time period, the number tripled in Colombia and it increased more than five-fold in Brazil and Italy. In Brazil, almost 2 million students benefitted from a student loan in 2014/15. Large proportional increases were also registered in Australia, Japan, the Netherlands and Turkey. This confirms the long-term trend of greater cost sharing between the government and other stakeholders in tertiary education, including students and their families (Sanyal and Johnstone, 2011). However, the number of students benefitting from a student loan decreased by around one-half in the Slovak Republic, two-thirds in Hungary and four-fifths in Estonia (Table B5.4).

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