Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe


10:00 am - November 14th 2010

by Claude Carpentieri    


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Sending a kid to university abroad has never been cheaper.

With tuition fees in the UK set to reach £9000 a year, the cost of Higher Education (already high by EU standards) is going to be the most prohibitive in Western Europe.

Let’s take a look.


[Copyright Martin Rowson, Guardian]

Although in France admission to universities is extremely selective, most universities are almost free (€174 a year), the exception being some private Business Schools or the ultra-prestigious Grandes Ecoles which can exceed €12,900 a year. However, 26% of all HE students (generally from low income families) receive generous bursaries (see this and this).

Students in Germany have to fork out €100-200 per semester. There are penalties (as in tuition fees as such) for students who don’t complete their courses on time (see this)

In the Netherlands, undergraduates under the age of 30 are required to pay €1620 a year.

In Sweden, all universities are completely free for all EU students. There is only a registration fee of around €30 Euros per semester (see here).

The same system is in place in Norway, although the registration fee is slightly higher (€50 per semester).

In Denmark, university courses are completely free for all EU students, while in Spain the system at state universities is more complex. Aside from an annual registration fee of up to €20 a year and a number of ancillary costs (i.e. various paperwork and certificates that will not exceed a total of €200 anyway), students are charged “per credit”, that is to say, more or less, for every module they study. A single credit will not exceed €16. However, students will be charged an extra 25% if they’re re-sitting and an extra 70% on their third attempt.

On average the total annual cost of university fees will range between €800 and €1,000.
source: http://www.studyineurope.eu

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Claude is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at: Hagley Road to Ladywood
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Reader comments


1. Chris Baldwin

If we (Labour) had had more guts over the last thirteen years it could be virtually free at the point of demand now. Of course, we didn’t dare break from Thatcherism, so…

2. the a&e charge nurse

“Does education need cost so much” – yes, Nick Clegg has told us lifelong student debt is the ideal platform to build a better society.

but you’re not saying anything here about how much education costs (perhaps you didn’t write the headline)

educations cost whatever the academic staff are paid, admin, buildings, labs etc. cost.

When something is paid for by a combination of fees and taxpayer, the cost is total of fees + taxpayer spending.

Something does’t cost less just because you decide to change the proportions fees/taxpyer. The individuals who pay for it are likely to be substantially the same in both cases – it will be (mostly) graduates who pay for it via taxes if they don’t pay for it via fees (at least one would hope the cost falls mainly on well paid graduates, otherwise if it’s bus drivers etc. paying for it, funding out of general taxation would be regressive)

i suspect sometimes that those who oppose student fees actually think something is “free” when it comes from the government. But then I think, no, they can’t be that stupid. (I’m not accusing you of that Claude: I just think the combination of headline plus copy doesn’t exactly make clear you’re talking about how the costs are divided up, not how actual costs vary across countries)

if you really think the cost of a university education in the UK is prohibitively expensive, you ought not be asking taxpayers to shoulder that cost. If you think it’s worth taxpayers paying, you want to argue a university education represents good value for money.

Sending a kid to university abroad has never been cheaper.

For whom? The user, or the taxpayer?

It would be more useful to compare the total cost – to both student and taxpayer – of university education before claiming that UK is the most expensive.

Here was me thinking that if you paid for universities through taxes you’d still have to pay high tuition fees. Thanks for correcting my ignorance.

I don’t understand the claim that “in France admission to universities is extremely selective” – the only requirement to enter any university (not a private school or grande école) is to have passed the baccalauréat.

@3 Free at the point of use is obviously the implication, don’t tell me you didn’t twig it.

A few obvious points:

“it will be (mostly) graduates who pay for it via taxes if they don’t pay for it via fees

Well, in Britain graduates will now have to do both. Up to their neck in debt with massive tuition fees, while still paying their fair chunk to the taxman. Basically a double wallop for trying to better themselves. Talk about “aspiration”, eh?

Secondly, as George Eaton argues in the New Statesman,
in public expenditure terms, “the UK currently spends just 0.7 per cent of its GDP on higher education, a lower level than France (1.2 per cent), Germany (0.9 per cent), Canada (1.5 per cent), Poland (0.9 per cent) and Sweden (1.4 per cent). Even the United States, where students make a considerable private contribution, spends 1 per cent of its GDP on higher education – 0.3 per cent more than the UK does”.

The above is actually extremely telling.

Finally, Luis Enrique, as for the “bus drivers etc ” who would otherwise so unfairly have to fund Higher Education, as you imply @3…they too will sometimes need a qualified doctor if they or their family fall ill. They may need decent teachers for their kids, accounts and lawyers, dentists and computer scientists, technicians and pharmacists, etc etc.

It’s how you approach Higher Education and the role you give it within society. In Scandinavia they seem to think that society will benefit from a good system free at the point of use. In the UK if you want to study at University just get on yer bike and tough.

Also note that in terms of apprenticeships schemes, which would be the best alternative to University, Britain is lagging behind when put next to Scandinavia or Germany. Look here for details.

Claude

yes of course I twigged it – I thought I made it quite clear that I did, and was just talking about how headline and copy refers simply to “the cost”.

Dividing a “wallop” up into two parts does not make it a double wallop. I don’t think that point make sense.

yes of course I understand the potential benefits to all of society* and yes I see we spend less that other countries. It still makes sense to consisder the incidence of who pays for those benefits – acknowleding broader benefits doesn’t mean that paying out of general taxation is fair -that depends on incidence to taxation and other govt. spending. But if the taxation is progressive enough, then we avoid the bus drivers paying for PPE graduates problem. Incidently, it’s odd isn’t that right wingers like to use this “oh, so you think it’s fair for bus drivers to pay to send the middle classes to uni” argument. If they’re worried about that, they could always vote for raising taxes on the rich.

Actually I’m probably on your side here – I think the marketization of education is probably a bad idea. I’m just not terribly impressed by (some) students acting outraged about having to pay for their uni education via one route rather than via another. Compared to say cuts in the Welfare system, this strikes me as less important.

* although it’s not obvious how much uni is about actually learning things that benefit society and how much is about signalling ability in the job market.

Luis Enrique

otherwise if it’s bus drivers etc. paying for it, funding out of general taxation would be regressive

This has to be the mosta facile argument in this debate and I want to scream at the person making it.

Take away the fact that bus drivers need Doctors to treat them when they are ill and teachers to educate their children, bus drivers also need an educated workforce and well paid customers in a strong economy to bus around or they’d be unemployed.

Claude – the whole point of paying higher tuition fees would be so you don’t pay for it through taxation. Do you have any evidence to back up the claim that people will be paying for their education twice? It would be quite a scandal if that happened, although our universities would be pretty immense with the extra income.

I agree with Ben – if unis aren’t paid for by tax then no one will be able to afford to use buses which will adversely effect the poor bus driver.

13. Luis Enrique

BenM

no, it is not facile. I don’t think you understand it. As I wrote, I understand the benefits to society. But the extent to which our hypothetical bus driver is paying for those benefits may vary, depending on nature of tax system.

Here’s a simple example. We wish to fund doctors. There are two kinds of people, rich and poor. Imagine we start from a position of no doctors, and plan on funding them by introducing new taxes. We could either tax 1. just the rich 2. the rich and poor 3. just the poor. Option 3 would be regressive, despite fact poor would benefit from existence of doctors.

it’s very hard to figure out whether current funding structure most resembles 1, 2 or 3, but I don’t think it’s ‘facile’ to at least think about it.

The issue here is not the cost of education, but rather who pays for it. In mainland Europe, the cost falls mainly on the general taxpayer – because degrees bebefit society as well as the individual there is some justice in this.

Previous governments have created a problem by promoting the daft idea that 50% of young people need to go to university. Degrees are now needed for jobs that previously required A levels – academic inflation – the result of which will be either to require more young people to begin life with a debt-burden hanging around their necks, or to raise general taxation for the rest of the populace, neither of which are pleasant prospects.

Degrees are also granted in silly subjects such a “golf course management” (I kid you not, Google it) where previously people would have learned these skills on the job. What has happened here is that private employers have managed to outsource their training costs to the public purse rather than funding them themselves as part of their overall business plan.

IMHO the answer is to go back to a system whereby universities provided free education for the brightest and best (including for mature students if they have the requisite skills) in academic subjects – including social sciences and cultural subjects, and private businesses need to be made to fund their own training costs as they did in the past.

Of course quality could always be improved by a bigger budget, this could be provided by cutting out waste in the public sector – the renewal of Trident counts as waste in my book. I note that with the exception of France (which as you rightly point out has a sizable private tertiary education system – please take note of where virtually all senior French politicians studied), the other countries you mention are not squandering resources on nuclear status symbols.

15. Luis Enrique

let me try a different approach.

we all agree that government spending of many varieities is beneficial, right? Yet that doesn’t stop us asking whether the way those benefits are funded is regressive / progressive, nor about the distribution of those benefits – we also ask who benefits most. Those questions make just as much sense when it comes to tertiary education.

I think Sparky has a point, though. Nobody has asked what is being funded yet.

If the intention was to improve accessibility to HE then arbitrarily saying 50% of school leavers should attend university seems a funny way of going about it. Why do we talk about student-centred appropriate learning up to the age of 16 and then suddenly want everyone else to have a degree?

There is more to this than who pays.

Lefties need to remember that graduates who never go on to earn much money, won’t have to repay much money.

People who go on to earn a lot of money will have to repay their loan, so really there’s nothing that isn’t “progressive” about this.

The proportion of students entering higher education is about 46% in both Sweden and Denmark. Other countries don’t keep costs down by keeping numbers down, contrary to what some commenters have suggested. And they don’t have graduate tax, nor fees, but – quite rightly – they have more progressive rates of income tax than we have.

Comparison with these countries does make us look a tad shabby on the fees issue. However, if you look at the relative tax paid by these countries then the picture is clearer. We pay very low tax compared with these countries and, as has been mentioned above, have military pretensions to waste money on. During the Blair-Brown years we have also seen a massive increase in salaries for the top management across HE. Further draining resources that could fund more teaching staff and Kit.

I agree with Sparky about degree inflation and most of his other comments. I have worked in HE during the labour period and the cost of hitting the 50% target has been carried by worsening conditions for staff, lowering of academic standards, the cynical retention of struggling students to get both their money and central funding, and thousands of students with a piss-poor university experience, low grade degrees and massive debts. A major re-think is needed on the left about HE rather than kicking in a few windows.

As everyone knows there is no such thing as free education. How much is being spent and the outcomes should be all that concerns us. It is a peculiarly British mindset that everyone else must be spending more and getting better results. The data says otherwise in relation to our European partners. Some OECD facts. We spend more on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education than Germany, France or Sweden. In Scandinavia only Denmark and Norway spend more. More OECD facts. On tertiary education we spend more than Germany, France, Finland and Denmark.
http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/fulltext/3010061ec071.pdf?expires=1289751016&id=0000&accname=freeContent&checksum=2580AD57C2451B85B32DCAF314DF6671

On Newsweek scoring the British education system outscores France, Germany and all of Scandinavia with the exception of Finland.
http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/15/interactive-infographic-of-the-worlds-best-countries.html

Page 40 of the social trends survey.

‘ In 2006, total private and public spending on education in the UK as a proportion of GDP was 5.9 per cent. This was relatively high when compared with other EU member states for which data were available. Of the 19 EU member states supplying data, Denmark recorded the highest proportion of GDP spent on education in 2006 (7.3 per cent) followed by Sweden (6.3 per cent) and Belgium and Slovenia (both 6.1 per cent). France (and the UK) followed at 5.9 per cent. ‘
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_social/Social-Trends40/ST40_2010_FINAL.pdf

France who spend a similar proportion of their GDP on education do not appear to be getting as good outcomes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment#League_Tables

Correlation is not causation. However, as our spending on education increased the gap between our GDP per capita vis-a-vis the US narrowed. At the same time France, Italy and Japan fell further behind and Germany started to improve in recent years after the reunification slump.
http://www.ambrosini.us/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/rel_japan1.png

Now there are valid debates around how education should be financed and whether we get good value for money. However, the notion that we are hugely lagging others in Europe in terms of how much we spend is a myth.

The OECD Factbook 2010 library is here

http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/content/serial/18147364

On a slight distraction – sending a kid to university? I had to send myself to uni-bloody-versity

No it doesn’t need to cost so much. Lecturers and professors are paid far too much. Give them a wage cut and the cost of education will come down.

23

Paid too much in relation to whom? It’s all very well to blithely call for an across the board reduction in salaries, but whilst I don’t know the details of salary structures, I’ve never noticed the people I know who work in tertiary education enjoying hugely inflated salaries.

Evidence please!

25. Ken McKenzie

@23

Utter rubbish. Read the Roberts Review from 2002. In fact, everyone read the Roberts Review. Sir Gareth is dead now, alas, but he wrote a very good review that was critical of Government policy and that the Government actually read and said ‘you know, you’re right’ and then did something about.

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/set_for_success.htm

It’s ostensibly about the supply of science grads to academia (short summary – the career structure was so unattractive in terms of job security and pay that there was a real issue) but really covers the whole of academia.

I suggest anyone wanting to understand the supply of skills into HE needs to read it. ESPECIALLY Rae Merrill.

I’m in Germany at the moment and my flatmate, a university student, finds the hike in UK university fees incredible.

I’m not sure the NUS is particularly well-poised to tackle the government head on, however; if anything, they could end up making the situation worse.

http://politicalreboot.blogspot.com/2010/11/nus-turn-their-sights-on-nick-clegg.html


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe http://bit.ly/bId0S2

  2. Dale Cox

    RT @libcon: Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe http://bit.ly/bId0S2

  3. Alicia Butteriss

    Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/NBt44nW via @libcon #screwthetories

  4. Philip Painter

    University tuition fee comparison across Europe. http://bit.ly/b4KClZ UK already the highest by far.

  5. Andrew Tindall

    Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/wTn4qPC via @libcon

  6. Alan Lai

    RT @andrewtindall: Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/wTn4qPC via @libcon

  7. safefromwolves

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  8. Syahira Rusmi

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  9. Lucy Fur

    RT @tamsinchan: The fundamentals – RT @libcon: Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe http://bit.ly/bId0S2 # …

  10. Joseph Wheatley

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  11. Gavin Lingiah

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  13. K C FONG

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  15. Angela Pateman

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  16. Jennifer O'Mahony

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  18. Pamela Heywood

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  19. How is education in the United States different from education in other countries?  |  Marcel Blog

    […] Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe … […]

  20. Education for the masses, Not the ruling classes « Left-Wing.co.uk

    […] – as proved by as proved by Scotland.  And the average fees in western Europe are between €800-€1000, with economic powerhouse Germany costing just €100-200 per […]

  21. Monique Glaspie

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  22. Elaine Ong

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  23. Msk8

    Let's send our kids to Europe for a reasonably priced degree! Great piece from Liberal Conspiracy http://tinyurl.com/277yanr

  24. John

    In light of the rise in UK tuition fees, let's look at the cost in other W. European nations: http://ur1.ca/2crbj

  25. Magali

    Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe | http://t.co/0gWTgAI3 (via @libcon) @ricky_martin





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