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Worrying trends observed in OECD report

PARIS – Funds for education have not increased in OECD countries in relation to their growing number of students in the past years. Data from the OECD’s report Education at a Glance shows a notable trend where higher education institutions turn to private funding sources. The European Students’ Union (ESU) is concerned that this may affect the equality and access to higher education.

Many key groups of society continue to be excluded, despite that these countries experience a significant increase in attendance at the tertiary level. The education level of people’s parents has a large impact on participation in higher education. 65 per cent of young adults that obtained qualifications at the tertiary level had parents with the same level of education. Only 23 per cent of those that completed tertiary education had parents without such qualifications. The report concluded that it was important to ensure access to and success in tertiary education and to address inequalities at the earliest stages of schooling.

The OECD highlights some very important issues regarding the Social Dimension. It is time for countries in Europe to take a broader and more cohesive approach to this issue. ESU commends policies that aim at increasing participation of underrepresented groups in higher education, such as tuition-free education and student support systems. But there is still a long way to go and one of the key ways to approach these issues is setting up National Access plans,” says Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU’s Chairperson. She continues “Even countries with students support systems and that are tuition-fee can benefit some taking a cohesive strategic approach to widening participation”.

Public spending decreses

The report also attempts to answer how the economic crisis has affected higher education in the OECD countries. Public spending per student in tertiary education has decreased in one out of three countries since the financial default in 2008. The OECD observed a significant decline in expenditure in four countries.

At the same time that we see higher enrolment, some countries continue to decrease funding in higher education. This will have a serious impact on access and student support systems and requires immediate action from policy-makers,” Gehrke concludes.

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For more information, please contact:

Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU Chairperson: +32/479.591.499 // or Robert Hlynur Baldursson, ESU Communications Manager: +32/473.669.894 //

The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.


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