Counting the Cost: Financing Asian Higher Education for Inclusive Growth

Publication | March 2012

While this publication reviews key aspects of higher education costs and financing, it deliberately goes beyond the usual debates.

  • US$28.00 (paperback)

Linking with the conceptual framework on inclusive growth in Asia, the analysis focuses on costs and financing from the perspectives of disadvantaged students such as the poor, females, ethnic minorities, and those from rural areas. For such students, the rising costs of higher education present a particular problem.

The analysis also focuses on the cost and financing implications of higher education "massification" in Asia. While higher education systems within the region have expanded rapidly over the past decade or more, funding has failed to parallel these increases, at least in per-student terms, thus sharpening long-standing issues of finance and equity, and the links between the two. Massification has also stretched the capacity of governments and agencies to respond, notably in order to maintain quality control and accreditation, including of transnational programs. Inefficient and nontransparent practices in the use of resources in higher education exacerbate the problem.

The costs of higher education are outstripping the capacity of such students to pay, raising acute questions about the need to strengthen social protection measures to make higher education more inclusive and able to contribute to inclusive growth. Higher education policies and systems that are inclusive provide opportunities for each individual to achieve his or her full learning potential and acquire relevant knowledge and skills to effectively serve as members of society and to contribute to inclusive growth.

Inclusiveness and equitable access throughout the education system, including higher education, are key factors for establishing the broad human resource base that is essential for advancing inclusive economic growth, leading to greater recognition that educating disadvantaged students and raising their achievement is an economic imperative. Furthermore, if higher education is developed not merely for producing highly skilled labor, but also for innovation, how ought such benefits to be distributed? What are the costs of inequity? Faced with such challenges, the publication concludes with a set of operational recommendations to effect change, which include:

  • Encourage governments and higher education institutions to more fully implement quality assurance measures;
  • Assist countries to assess the economic and social returns associated with different strategies for distributing support to higher education institutions;
  • Improve the quality of institutional data and the range of institutions from which they are collected;
  • Map student flows and associated financial returns more systematically within the region; and
  • Enhance the effectiveness of equity measures by improving the evidence on which decisions are based.


  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • The Rise of Higher Education in Asia
  • Cost Sharing in Higher Education: Principles and Practice
  • The Asian Context
  • Counting the Costs of Difference
  • Counting the Income: Transnational Trade in Higher Education
  • Searching for Solutions
  • Recommendations
  • References

Additional Details

  • Education
  • Education sector finance
  • Inclusive education
  • Tertiary and higher education
  • RPS124448
  • 978-92-9092-579-8 (Print)
  • 978-92-9092-580-4 (Web)

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