Highlights from Education at a Glance 2009
branch Paying for Education
Has spending per student increased?
Previous page 24/43 Next page
  • Expenditure on educational institutions per student at primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary level increased on average by 40% between 1995 and 2006, a period when enrolment levels remained generally static.
  • At tertiary level, however, student numbers generally rose and spending per student has fallen in some countries as spending failed to keep up with increasing enrolment.


This spread looks at whether spending on education has risen or fallen in recent years. Policy makers are under constant pressure to find ways of improving the quality of educational services while expanding access to educational opportunities, notably at tertiary level. Over time, spending on educational institutions does indeed tend to rise, in large part because teachers' salaries rise in line with general earnings. However, if the cost of schooling each student is not accompanied by improvements in educational outcomes, it raises the spectre of falling productivity levels.


Expenditure on educational institutions per student at the primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary levels increased in every country, on average, by 40% between 1995 and 2006 during a period of relatively stable student numbers. The increase is quite similar over the first and second halves of this time period; only the Czech Republic, Norway and Switzerland showed a decrease between 1995 and 2000, followed by an increase between 2000 and 2006. Changes in enrolments do not seem to have been the main factor behind changes in expenditure at these levels of education.

The pattern is different at the tertiary level where spending per student between 1995 and 2006 fell in some cases, as expenditure failed to keep up with expanding student numbers. Such spending per student remained stable between 1995 and 2000 but then increased by 11% on average in OECD countries from 2000 to 2006, as governments invested massively in response to the expansion of tertiary education. The Czech Republic, Korea, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and the United Kingdom followed this pattern. However, the increase in expenditure per student between 2000 and 2006 did not totally counterbalance the decrease between 1995 and 2000 in the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

Between 2000 and 2006, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden recorded decreases in per-student expenditure in tertiary education. In all of these countries, except Germany, these declines were mainly the result of rapid increases - at least 10% - in tertiary student numbers. Of the eight OECD countries that saw a rise of more than 20% in enrolments in tertiary education, five (the Czech Republic, Mexico, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland) matched this with an at least equivalent increase in per-student expenditure while the other three (Hungary, Iceland and Ireland) did not. Austria and Spain were the only OECD countries that saw falls in tertiary enrolment over this period, and increases in expenditure per student were above the OECD average of 11%.


Data for the 2006 financial year are based on the UOE data collection on education statistics administered by the OECD in 2008. OECD countries were asked to collect the 2000 data according to the definitions and the coverage of UOE 2007 data collection. All expenditure data, as well as the GDP for 2000, are adjusted to 2006 prices using the GDP price deflator. Spending per student at a particular level of education is calculated by dividing the total expenditure on educational institutions at that level by the corresponding full-time equivalent enrolment.

Going further

For additional material, notes and a full explanation of sourcing and methodologies, see Education at a Glance 2009 (Indicator B1).

Areas covered include:

  • Changes in expenditure on educational institutions by level of education.
  • Changes in expenditure and in GDP per capita.

Further reading from OECD

Trends Shaping Education (2008).

Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

g3-03. Trends in expenditure per student (2000, 2006)
Trends in expenditure per student (2000, 2006)

Visit the OECD web site