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ESU: “Success of higher education should not only be measured by private returns”

BRUSSELS – The European Students’ Union (ESU) is cautious towards the OECD report Education at a Glance 2011. One of the main conclusions of the report states that people with university degrees have suffered far fewer job losses during the global economic crisis. Allan Päll, ESU Chairperson, said: “Although this shows how important increased and effective investment into higher education is for societies and individuals, we do not think that the success of higher education institutions should only be measured by private returns.”

Public funding

ESU wants national governments to put more emphasis on the importance of public funding of higher education, instead of relying primarily on private resources. In the last years, public funding for universities has decreased. The report reads: “On average among the 19 OECD countries for which trend data are available for all reference years, the share of public funding for tertiary institutions decreased slightly from 74% in 1995 to 73% in 2000, to 68% in 2007 and to 67% in 2008”.

ESU thinks that, especially in the light of the report’s second conclusion on the increase of the share of private contributions, it is alarming that governments are not keeping pace with expansion of higher education despite having widening education participation as an important policy goal. Päll: “Governments are shifting back from the commitment to high quality and accessible education.”

Accessible to all
The OECD report focuses, according to ESU, too much on the benefits of private investments. Päll: “We think higher education should be accessible to all learners, especially to those most at risk. As not everyone has wealthy parents or can take up a burden of a loan, we do not support the shift from public to private funding and call upon the governments to match political commitments with budgetary measures.”ESU is the umbrella organisation of 45 national unions of students from 38 European countries and represents around 11 million students at the European level. The full reaction from ESU to the OECD report is expected to be published in the next few days.

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Published: 13 September 2011

For more information, please contact:
Allan Päll, ESU Chairperson: +32/479.591.499 or or Marianne Slegers, ESU Communications Manager: +32/473.669.894 or


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