England has the highest tuition fees in the world for undergraduates, new research shows

by Ray Clancy on November 26, 2015

When deciding where in the world to study abroad at university the cost of fees is often the major consideration, but they don’t come cheap in some of the most popular countries with international students.

England has the highest average undergraduate tuition fees in the industrialised world, according to new research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

UK LondonStudents studying at English universities paid just under an average of £6,000 in tuition fees in the 2013/2014 academic year, followed by the United States at £5,300 and then Japan at £3,300.

However, the report points out that the figures relate to state universities, which affects the US as many of the top universities are private and therefore not included. The number of students enrolled outside their country of citizenship has risen dramatically, from 1.7 million worldwide in 1995 to more than 4.5 million.

Some 27% of students in OECD countries who graduated for the first time from a doctoral programme in 2013 were international students, compared to only 7% for students who were awarded a bachelor’s degree.

The report, which surveys education across more than 30 countries, also points out that while these fees may seem high the investment tends to be repaid many times in terms of graduates commanding higher wages. Throughout the OECD, graduates earn on average double over their lifetime than those whose highest education was secondary school.

Overall there has been a move towards increasing tuition fees in many countries as government funding dwindles and state universities have to find more of their own funding. The report says that 14 out of 25 countries that had relevant information introduced tuition fees between 1995 and 2010.

On top of this, since 2010 some 10 countries have changed their fee systems, mainly revising them upwards, notably England’s tripling of maximum annual fees to £9,000 in 2012. This is for domestic students with overseas students generally paying even more.

Out of the 34 countries covered by the OECD report, eight have no tuition fees for full time undergraduate students at public universities, but in more than half of the other countries with relevant data, annual fees are £1,300 or more.

Those who have had higher education tend to be both more physically healthy and more trusting of others than those who have not, according to the report which also looked at Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Around 85% of today’s young people will complete upper secondary education over their lifetimes and in all countries, young women are now more likely to do so than men. The largest gender gap is in Slovenia, where 95% of young women are expected to graduate from upper secondary, compared to only 76% of young men.

Around 41% of 25 to 34 year olds in OECD countries now have a university level education, some 16% more than 55 to 64 year-olds who have attained a similar level of education. In many countries, this difference exceeds 20%.

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