UNESCO: Fast growth in enrolment threatening higher education

The Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report), an editorially independent, authoritative and evidence-based annual report published by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), has expressed worry that higher education as a cornerstone for sustainable development, is being challenged by rising student enrollment.

According to the report by the International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP) of UNESCO, student enrollment had doubled to 207 million globally since 2000, and the demand for higher education has continued to be on the increase.

This was even as the UNESCO in the report hinted that in the poorer countries, there were notable gender disparities between men and women enrolment for higher education, where statistics indicated that in 2014, only 30 per cent women enroll as bachelor students in low-income countries. Also, the report noted that gender disparities get much more visible on average across all countries, looking at advanced degree programmes.

Since this growth is out-pacing available resources, and of-ten resulting in the cost of higher education falling on parents, many of whom cannot afford the cost, it called on governments to urgently make sure that student loan repayments never rise above 15 per cent, where such loan facilities are available, and where it is not existent, government should fund education adequately so that disadvantaged are not left behind.

The report argued further that since governments have many policy tools to foster equity and help parents afford not just tuition fees, all the other costs of attending higher education such as books, housing and transportation should be put in place.

Therefore, it called for equity policies that will help students find their way to university, while financial aid policies will ensure the students pay for their education once enrolled.

“When entry into higher education is selective, such as for example through centralised examinations, disadvantaged groups often fare less, but well Affirmative Action policies will also help to level the playing field,” the report said.

Towards this end, the report offered six specific recommendations that could help policy makers make higher education equitable and affordable for all.

These are putting higher education funding in law to guarantee equity and affordability in regulatory framework; stepping up monitoring activities that will establish national agencies to ensure equal opportunities; as well as to varying admission criteria by introducing the use of different admission criteria and affirmative policies.

Other recommendations include keeping an eye on the target by making sure those who need help mostly are getting such; provision of varied student aid by establishing an agency to coordinate student education helps, and provision of students’ loans, which the payment will be less than 15 per cent.

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