Indicator C3. How much public and private investment in educational institutions is there?

Highlights
  • On average across OECD countries, public funds account for a larger share of total spending at primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary level (90%) than at the tertiary level of education (66%).

  • The share of private investment on tertiary educational institutions depends mostly on the tuition fees charged to students. More than 60% of total expenditure is privately sourced in Australia, Chile, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

  • Public-to-private transfers for tertiary education provide financial support to the private sector and represents 9% of total spending on tertiary institutions on average across OECD countries. However, they exceed 20% of spending in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Figure C3.1. Distribution of transfers and public and private expenditure on educational institutions (2016)
Tertiary educational levels
Figure C3.1. Distribution of transfers and public and private expenditure on educational institutions (2016)

Note: International expenditure is aggregated with public expenditure for display purposes.

1. Year of reference 2017.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the proportion of public-to-private transfers.

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2019), Tables C3.1 and C3.2. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933979044

Context

Today, more people than ever before are participating in a wide range of educational programmes offered by an increasing number of providers. As a result, there has been increasing focus on the balance between public and private funding of education. In the current economic environment, many governments are finding it difficult to provide the necessary resources to support this increased demand for education through public funds alone. In addition, some policy makers assert that those who benefit the most from education – the individuals who receive it – should bear at least some of the costs. While public funding still represents a large part of countries’ investment in education, private sources of funding play an increasingly prominent role at some educational levels.

Public sources dominate much of the funding of non-tertiary education, which is usually compulsory in most countries. Across OECD countries, the balance between public and private financing varies mostly at pre-primary (see Indicator C2) and tertiary levels of education, where full or nearly full public funding is less common. At these levels, private funding comes mainly from households, raising concerns about equity in access to education. The debate is particularly intense over funding for tertiary education. Some stakeholders are concerned that the balance between public and private funding might discourage potential students from entering tertiary education. Others believe that countries should significantly increase public support to students such as student loans, while still others support efforts to increase the amount of funding to tertiary education provided by private enterprises. Student loans can reduce the barriers to education created by direct private spending and reduces the cost to taxpayers of direct government spending. In particular, student loans transfer the cost of education in time from when students have little or no income before graduation to when they generally have a larger income after graduation.

This indicator examines the proportion of public, private and international funding allocated to educational institutions at different levels of education. It also breaks down private funding by households and other private entities. It sheds some light on the widely debated issue of how the financing of educational institutions should be shared between public and private entities, particularly at the tertiary level. Finally, it looks at the relative share of public transfers provided to private institutions and individual students and their families to meet the costs of tertiary education.

Other findings

  • Households account for the largest share of private expenditure devoted to tertiary educational institutions (74% on average across OECD countries).

  • Between 2010 and 2016, the share of expenditure coming from private sources on educational institutions from primary to tertiary level increased by 3 percentage points, while the share from public sources decreased by the same amount on average across OECD countries.

  • The share of private expenditure on educational institutions varies across non-tertiary education levels. At the primary and lower secondary levels, around 8% of expenditure on educational institutions comes from private sources. This share reaches 14% at upper secondary education.

Analysis

Share of public and private expenditure on educational institutions

The largest share of funding on educational institutions in OECD countries comes from public sources, although private funding at the tertiary level is substantial. Within this overall average, however, the share of public, private and international funding varies widely among countries.

On average across OECD countries, 83% of the funds for primary to tertiary educational institutions come directly from public sources and 17% from private sources (Table C3.1). However, there are many disparities across countries. In Finland, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden, private funds constitute 3% or less of expenditure on educational institutions. In contrast, they make up around one-third of educational expenditure in Australia, Chile, Colombia, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. International sources provide a very low share of total expenditure on educational institutions. On average across OECD countries, they account for 1% of total expenditure, reaching around 3% in Estonia, Luxembourg and Portugal.

Non-tertiary educational institutions

Public funding dominates non-tertiary education in all countries. Private funding accounts for 10% of expenditure at these levels of education on average across OECD countries, although it exceeds 20% in Colombia and Turkey (Table C3.1 and Figure C3.2). In most countries, the largest share of private expenditure at these levels comes from households and goes mainly towards tuition fees.

The share of private expenditure on educational institutions varies across countries and according to the level of education. At the primary level, 8% of expenditure on educational institutions comes from private sources on average across OECD countries. However in Norway and Sweden, all educational funding on primary institutions is public, while in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Spain and Turkey, more than 15% of funds come from private sources (OECD, 2018[1]).

The share of private funding at the lower secondary level is similar to the share at primary level. Around 8% of educational expenditure on lower secondary institutions is privately sourced on average across OECD countries. In three-quarters of OECD countries for which data are available, private expenditure accounts for less than 10% of total expenditure at this level compared to more than 20% in Australia, Colombia and Turkey (OECD, 2018[1]).

Upper secondary education relies more on private funding than the primary and lower secondary levels, reaching an average of 14% across OECD countries. Private sources contribute a similar share to the spending on vocational and general programmes, at 13% of spending on upper secondary institutions on average across OECD countries. However, in Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand, the share of private funding in vocational upper secondary education is at least 35 percentage points higher than in general education. On the other hand, in Chile, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom the share of private funding of general programmes exceeds that of vocational programmes by 10 percentage points or more (OECD, 2018[1]).

The level of public funding in post-secondary non-tertiary education stands at only 72% on average across OECD countries. Unlike the three lower levels presented above, post-secondary non-tertiary education in Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Poland and the United States relies more heavily on private than public sources of funding (OECD, 2018[1]).

Tertiary educational institutions

The high private returns to tertiary education (see Indicator A5) have led a number of countries to expect a greater financial contribution from the private sector at tertiary level. Some countries have implemented financial support mechanisms to ease the burden on individuals when private contributions are expected, although this is not always the case (see Indicator C5). In all OECD and partner countries, the proportion of private expenditure on education after transfers is far higher at tertiary than it is at lower levels of education. On average across OECD countries, nearly 32% of total expenditure on tertiary institutions is sourced from the private sector (Table C3.1 and Figure C3.2).

Figure C3.2. Distribution of public and private expenditure on educational institutions (2016)
Final source of funds, by level of education
Figure C3.2. Distribution of public and private expenditure on educational institutions (2016)

Note: International expenditure is aggregated with public expenditure for display purposes.

1. The figures for the United States are for net student loans rather than gross, thereby underestimating public transfers.

2. Primary education includes pre-primary programmes.

3. Year of reference 2017.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the proportion of public and international expenditure on educational institutions.

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2019), Table C3.1. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933979063

The share of private funding is strongly related to the level of tuition fees charged by tertiary institutions (see Indicator C5). In countries where tuition fees tend to be low or negligible, such as Austria, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg and Norway, the share of expenditure on tertiary institutions sourced through the private sector (including subsidised private payments such as tuition fee loans) is less than 10%. In contrast, more than 60% of funding on tertiary institutions is privately sourced in Australia, Chile, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States, which also tend to charge students higher fees.

On average across OECD countries, households account for 74% of private expenditure on tertiary institutions. While household expenditure is the biggest source of private funds in the majority of OECD countries, almost all private funding comes from other private entities (mainly for research and development) in Finland and Sweden (Figure C3.2).

Figure C3.3. Change in relative share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions (2010 and 2016)
Final source of funds, primary to tertiary education
Figure C3.3. Change in relative share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions (2010 and 2016)

1. Year of reference 2017.

2. Primary education includes pre-primary programmes.

3. The figures for the United States are for net student loans rather than gross, thereby underestimating public transfers.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage point change in the share of public expenditure on educational institutions.

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2019), Table C3.3. See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933979082

Trends in the share of public and private expenditure on educational institutions

Although educational institutions from primary to tertiary level are still predominantly publicly funded, their reliance on private funding is growing (Table C3.3). Between 2010 and 2016, the share of private spending after transfers on primary to tertiary educational institutions increased by 3 percentage points on average across OECD countries, while the share of public spending fell by about the same amount. Increases in the share of private funding were observed in about half of OECD and partner countries, with Australia and Spain showing the largest increase (7 percentage points). In contrast, Chile experienced the largest decrease in the share of private spending, balanced by an equivalent increase from the public sector (Figure C3.3).

In many OECD countries, greater student enrolment in non-tertiary education (see Indicator B1) reflects strong individual and social demand. Increases in enrolment have been accompanied by increased investment mainly from private sources and changes in the proportions of public and private expenditure. The increase in the share of funding from private sources between 2010 and 2016 was slightly stronger (3 percentage points) than for public sources (of 2.6 percentage points). These figures, however, are strongly influenced by outliers like Estonia, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, where the share of private funding for non-tertiary education increased by more than 5 percentage points between 2010 and 2016. In addition, large increases were observed during the same period in the share of public funds, notably in Chile and the United Kingdom (around 5 percentage points increase).

At tertiary level, although the share of public funding on institutions increased in some countries, they have fallen below their 2010 levels in others. In many cases, these reductions have been reflected for by an equivalent increase in private funding. This is the case for example for Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Spain and the United States, where the share of public funds decreased by 5 percentage points in 2016 compared to 2010 but the share of private funds increased by the same amount (OECD, 2018[1]).

Public transfers to the private sector

A large share of government spending goes directly to educational institutions, but governments also transfer funds to educational institutions through various other allocation mechanisms (tuition subsidies or direct public funding of institutions based on student enrolments or credit hours) or by subsidising students, households and other private entities (through scholarships, grants or loans to cover tuition fees to educational institutions).

Governments use transfers to provide institutions with incentives to organise their educational programmes and teaching to better meet student requirements, as well as to increase access to education and reduce social inequalities. Channelling funding for institutions through students helps increase competition among institutions and results in greater efficiency in the funding of education.

Public transfers to the private sector play an important role in the financing of tertiary education in some countries (Figure C3.1). In countries where tertiary education is expanding, and particularly in those where students are charged tuition fees, public-to-private transfers of funds are often seen as a means of expanding access for lower-income students. However, there is no single allocation model across OECD countries (OECD, 2017[2]). Despite the considerable impact of public transfers on reducing the financial burden of access to tertiary education, government and international support seems to cover only a relatively small share of the private costs of tertiary education in some countries while in other countries private spending is largely covered by public transfers. This creates challenges for access and learning as higher private spending could deter students from participating in tertiary education, particularly in countries with high tuition fees and limited financial support mechanisms.

On average across OECD countries, 9% of the total funds devoted to tertiary institutions are transfers from the public to the private sector. The countries with the highest transfers are also those that tend to have the highest tuition fees. Transfers exceed 20% in Australia and the United Kingdom, all of which have high tuition fees. In contrast, public transfers were below 1% in countries with no or lower tuition, such as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkey. However, some countries have high levels of private spending without high levels of support from the government, such as Chile and Korea (OECD, 2017[2]).

Definitions

Initial public, private and international shares of educational expenditure are the percentages of total education spending originating in, or generated by, the public, private and international sectors before transfers have been taken into account. Initial public spending includes both direct public expenditure for educational institutions and transfers to the private sector, and excludes transfers from the international sector. Initial private spending includes tuition fees and other student or household payments to educational institutions, minus the portion of such payments offset by public subsidies. Initial international spending includes both direct international expenditure for educational institutions (for example a research grant from a foreign corporation to a public university) and international transfers to governments.

Final public, private and international shares are the percentages of educational funds expended directly by public, private and international purchasers of educational services after the flow of transfers. Final public spending includes direct public purchases of educational resources and payments to educational institutions. Final private spending includes all direct expenditure on educational institutions (tuition fees and other private payments to educational institutions), whether partially covered by public subsidies or not. Private spending also includes expenditure by private companies on the work-based element of school- and work-based training of apprentices and students. Final international spending includes direct international payments to educational instructions such as research grants or other funds from international sources paid directly to educational institutions.

Households refer to students and their families.

Other private entities include private businesses and non-profit organisations (e.g. religious organisations, charitable organisations, business and labour associations, and other non-profit organisations).

Public subsidies include public and international transfers such as scholarships and other financial aid to students plus certain subsidies to other private entities.

Methodology

All entities that provide funds for education, either initially or as final payers, are classified as either government (public) sources, non-government (private) sources or international sources such as international agencies and other foreign sources. The figures presented here group together public and international expenditures for display purposes. As the share of international expenditure is relatively small compared to other sources, its integration into public sources does not affect the analysis of the share of public spending.

Not all spending on instructional goods and services occurs within educational institutions. For example, families may purchase commercial textbooks and materials or seek private tutoring for their children outside educational institutions. At the tertiary level, students’ living expenses and foregone earnings can also account for a significant proportion of the costs of education. All expenditure outside educational institutions, even if publicly subsidised, are excluded from this indicator. Public subsidies for educational expenditure outside institutions are discussed in Indicators C4 and C5.

A portion of the budgets of educational institutions is related to ancillary services offered to students, including student welfare services (student meals, housing and transport). Part of the cost of these services is covered by fees collected from students and is included in the indicator.

Expenditure on educational institutions is calculated on a cash-accounting basis and, as such, represents a snapshot of expenditure in the reference year. Many countries operate a loan payment/repayment system at the tertiary level. While public loan payments are taken into account, loan repayments from private individuals are not, and so the private contribution to education costs may be under-represented.

Student loans provided by private financial institutions (rather than directly by a government) are counted as private expenditure, although any interest rate subsidies or government payments on account of loan defaults are captured as public funding.

All government to private transfers are considered from the final source of funds in the analysis of this indicator.

For more information please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018 (OECD, 2018[3]) and Annex 3 for country-specific notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

Source

Data refer to the financial year 2016 (unless otherwise specified) and are based on the UNESCO, OECD and Eurostat (UOE) data collection on education statistics administered by the OECD in 2018 (for details see Annex 3 at https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en). Data from Argentina, the People’s Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS).

The data on expenditure for 2005, and 2010 to 2016 were updated based on a survey in 2018-19, and expenditure for 2005 to 2015 was adjusted to the methods and definitions used in the current UOE data collection.

Note regarding data from Israel

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and are under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

References

[1] OECD (2018), Education at a Glance Database, https://stats.oecd.org/ (accessed on 6 July 2018).

[3] OECD (2018), OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264304444-en.

[2] OECD (2017), “Who really bears the cost of education? : How the burden of education expenditure shifts from the public to the private sector”, Education Indicators in Focus, No. 56, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/4c4f545b-en.

Indicator C3. Tables

Table C3.1 Relative share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions, final source of funds (2016)

Table C3.2 Relative share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions, initial source of funds (2016)

Table C3.3 Trends in the share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions (2005, 2010 and 2016)

Cut-off date for the data: 19 July 2019. Any updates on data can be found on line at http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-data-en. More breakdowns can also be found at http://stats.oecd.org/, Education at a Glance Database.

StatLink: https://doi.org/10.1787/888933981096

Table C3.1. Relative share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions, final source of funds (2016)
After transfers between public and private sectors, by level of education
Table C3.1. Relative share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions, final source of funds (2016)

Note: Some levels of education are included with others. Refer to "x" code in Table C1.1 for details. Private expenditure figures include tuition fee loans and scholarships (subsidies attributable to payments to educational institutions received from public sources). Loan repayments from private individuals are not taken into account, and so the private contribution to education costs may be under-represented. Public expenditure figures presented here exclude undistributed programmes. See Definitions and Methodology sections for more information. Data and more breakdowns available at http://stats.oecd.org/, Education at a Glance Database.

1. Primary education includes pre-primary programmes.

2. Year of reference 2017.

3. The figures for the United States are for net student loans rather than gross, thereby underestimating public transfers.

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2019). See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

Please refer to the Reader’s Guide for information concerning symbols for missing data and abbreviations.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933978987

Table C3.2. Relative share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions, initial source of funds (2016)
Before transfers between public and private sectors, by level of education
Table C3.2. Relative share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions, initial source of funds (2016)

Note: See Definitions and Methodology sections for more information. Data and more breakdowns available at http://stats.oecd.org/, Education at a Glance Database.

1. Primary education includes pre-primary programmes.

2. Year of reference 2017.

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2019). See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

Please refer to the Reader’s Guide for information concerning symbols for missing data and abbreviations.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933979006

Table C3.3. Trends in the share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions (2005, 2010 and 2016)
Final source of funds
Table C3.3. Trends in the share of public, private and international expenditure on educational institutions (2005, 2010 and 2016)

Note: Private expenditure figures include tuition fee loans and scholarships (subsidies attributable to payments to educational institutions received from public sources). Loan repayments from private individuals are not taken into account, and so the private contribution to education costs may be under-represented. Public expenditure figures presented here exclude undistributed programmes. See Definitions and Methodology sections for more information. Data and more breakdowns available at http://stats.oecd.org/, Education at a Glance Database.

1. Primary education includes pre-primary programmes.

2. The figures for the United States are for net student loans rather than gross, thereby underestimating public transfers.

Source: OECD/UIS/Eurostat (2019). See Source section for more information and Annex 3 for notes (https://doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en).

Please refer to the Reader’s Guide for information concerning symbols for missing data and abbreviations.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933979025

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