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Higher education plays a more prominent role in OECD member and partner countries today than it did a half-century ago. It educates many more learners and it is increasingly expected to make key contributions to economic innovation, public health and social well-being. Higher education is also much more costly than it once was, due both to these expanded responsibilities and chronic difficulty in identifying ways to boost the productivity with which it carries out its missions. Burgeoning responsibilities and costs have brought heightened scrutiny on the part of governments and households, who expect higher education systems and institutions to demonstrate that they are making sound use of the resources with which they have been entrusted.

Although public and private investment in higher education has risen and expectations of performance have grown, those who are responsible for mobilising, allocating and using resources in higher education systems continue to find that reliable evidence to assess policy options, guide their decisions and account for their choices – especially evidence based in international experience – is absent or insufficient. Large exogenous shocks to economies and public budgets – such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – make these needs even more pressing.

The OECD Higher Education Resources Project was initiated to support member countries in narrowing this gap between decision-making and evidence. It aims to do this by identifying and sharing promising policies that can guide the allocation and use of financial and human resources in higher education.

The project begins with this report, Resourcing Higher Education, which examines key challenges relating to resourcing higher education that policy makers in OECD higher education systems face. The report identifies what research evidence can tell us about these challenges and presents the challenges, questions and evidence in a way that will help structure and guide the data collection and policy analysis carried out in system-specific projects undertaken within the Higher Education Resources Project.

The second phase of the project implements analyses of higher education resourcing in a cohort of OECD member countries, the results of which will presented in a series of country reviews and thematic policy briefs. In a third phase, the knowledge gained in these projects will be shared through peer-learning events and thematic publications on resourcing topics of wide interest to member countries.


Andreas Schleicher

Director for Education and Skills

Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General

Colombia was not an OECD Member at the time of preparation of this publication. Accordingly, Colombia does not appear in the list of OECD Members and is not included in the zone aggregates.

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