18 April 2017

In recent years, there has been a massive expansion of higher education throughout the world, especially in upper-middle income countries.  At the same time, there has been an increasing diversity of providers including private institutions, international branch campuses and online providers. These developments have serious implications for the international evaluation and comparison of universities. An article by Elizabeth Redden in INSIDE HIGHER ED discusses a recent report by UNESCO that shows that the expansion of higher education has often been uneven.

She notes that while the gender gap is shrinking, low-income and indigenous students and those from ethnic minorities are still underrepresented among students and graduates.

The report found that across the world a fifth of the richest 25- to 29-year-olds had completed four years of tertiary education but the figures for those from poor families was much lower. The disparity was especially high in Asian countries such as Mongolia and the Philippines.

In some countries, there are still very wide ethnic and social gaps. In South Africa, for example, participation rates are considerably higher for Whites and Indians than for Coloureds and Africans. In Mexico, less than one per cent of indigenous groups participate in higher education while in China there is a large gap between rural and urban youths.

The UNESCO study finds that some countries such as Ecuador, Greece and Tunisia have a legal obligation to provide post-secondary education for all. Brazil prohibits discrimination in higher education and encourages access by disadvantaged groups such as indigenous peoples and Afro-Brazilians. Affirmative action policies have been introduced in India to increase participation by tribal groups, lower castes and “backward classes”.

The report concludes by proposing six recommendations including periodic policy reviews, the creation of regulatory frameworks and monitoring agencies, the development of effective equity policies, provision of financial aid to underprivileged groups, and limits to loan repayments.

Sources:
INSIDE HIGHER ED
UNESCO

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