Symposium Books Logo

Students, Markets and Social Justice
Enlarge cover

Oxford Studies in Comparative Education

Students, Markets and Social Justice

higher education fee and student support policies in Western Europe and beyond


2014 paperback 216 pages, £36.00, ISBN 978-1-873927-57-1

Please note that although the printed book cannot be ordered directly from this website, it can be ordered from any reputable bookseller. Alternatively, to immediately obtain an eBook version please click on the links below to Amazon Kindle and/or Google Books.

About the book

This volume examines tuition fees as the most prominent and most visible trend among higher education policies that embodies recent neoliberal trends in the policy area of education. Tuition fee policies and the accompanying provisions for student support illustrate the contemporary tensions between marketisation and social justice. Among the major transformations higher education systems have undergone in the last two decades, the emergence of marketisation, and in particular the introduction of tuition fees, have received a lot of attention. In Europe, these trends seemingly break with a long-dominant representation of higher education as a public good, which has been at the centre of the process of massification of higher education access in most European countries since the 1960s.

     Against this background, the volume examines recent changes in tuition fee policies in a number of western European countries, Canada, the United States and China, and investigates the impacts of these changes on access to higher education. There are two main contributions the volume makes: first, it provides an overview of recent reforms in a comparative perspective, including a diverse range of national contexts; second, it elaborates a systematic analysis of tuition fee policies’ rationales, instruments and outcomes in terms of access to higher education. The volume argues that tuition fee policies provide fruitful grounds to explore the variety of neoliberal trends in higher education, that is, how marketisation and concerns regarding social justice are intertwined in contemporary higher education systems.

Contents [Please click on author name for summary]

Claire Dupuy, Hubert Ertl Introduction. Comparative Perspectives of the Contexts and Rationales of Fee Policies in Higher Education, 7-19

Helen Carasso Reassuringly Expensive? The Impact of Market Forces on England’s Undergraduate Provision, 21-45

Pedro Teixeira, Vera Rocha, Ricardo Biscaia, Margarida Fonseca Cardoso For Whosoever Hath, to Them Shall Be Given? Analysing the Matthew Effect for Tuition Fees’ Revenues in Portuguese Higher Education, 47-65

Nicolas Charles France: a low-fee, low-aid system challenged from the margins, 67-83

Otto Hüther, Georg Krücken The Rise and Fall of Student Fees in a Federal Higher Education System: the case of Germany, 85-110

Hans Vossensteyn Access to Dutch Higher Education: issues of tuition fees and student financial support, 111-131

R.N. Nahai What Price University? Rising Tuition Fees, Financial Aid, and Social Justice in Higher Education in the USA, 133-159

Kai Yu, Jin Jin Tuition Fees and Participation in Chinese Higher Education: the long march to marketisation and massification, 161-181

Christian Maroy, Pierre Doray, Mamouna Kabore University Financing Policy in Québec: the test of the ‘printemps érable’, 183-210

Notes on Contributors, 211-214

Introduction. Comparative Perspectives of the Contexts and Rationales of Fee Policies in Higher Education
Claire Dupuy, Hubert Ertl


^^ Back to contents list

Reassuringly Expensive? The Impact of Market Forces on England’s Undergraduate Provision
Helen Carasso

Since 1998, home and EU undergraduates at English universities have found themselves at the receiving end of an evolving policy experiment in marketisation. They have seen their annual fees increase from zero to a maximum of £9000 in three steps and, in parallel, mechanisms for student support have changed at each stage. These moves were the result of the need to address underfunding of the sector during a period of increasing participation. However, at each stage the political case made for modifications to fees and funding concentrated on: equitable cost-sharing; the potential for market mechanisms to increase the options open to applicants (who would then make informed choices); and the expectation that universities would experience pressure from students for improved quality of provision. Opponents of each change expressed concerns about the potential for higher costs to discourage participation – especially among people from groups that are the focus of widening participation activities – resulting in several highly contested parliamentary debates on ‘top-up fees’. While the most negative predictions about the impacts of increased fees have not proved entirely accurate, neither has a more market-based approach to the funding of undergraduate degrees obviously brought about the changes that politicians predicted. With questions about the sustainability of the current funding model, however, there is the potential for another politically controversial review of undergraduate fees and loans in the near future.

^^ Back to contents list

For Whosoever Hath, to Them Shall Be Given? Analysing the Matthew Effect for Tuition Fees’ Revenues in Portuguese Higher Education
Pedro Teixeira, Vera Rocha, Ricardo Biscaia, Margarida Fonseca Cardoso

The dominant issue in recent years in public higher education’s funding has been that of financial stringency, with growing pressures towards revenue diversification. This has been followed by debates about possible differentiation in the way public institutions are funded and about the advantages and risks of concentrating resources in a few institutions. In this chapter we analyse the Portuguese experience with cost-sharing to analyse some major factors – besides the total number of enrolments – that may explain the ability of public higher education institutions to accumulate more revenues through tuition fees. The results do not seem to confirm the existence of a so-called Matthew effect in the distribution of those revenues. Our analysis instead highlights that revenues from tuition fees have been particularly important for those institutions with lower research-intensity and with a more specialised programmatic offer. Our results also point out possible tensions in the current pattern of funding in Portuguese public higher education, notably in the current environment of crisis and financial retrenchment.

^^ Back to contents list

France: a low-fee, low-aid system challenged from the margins
Nicolas Charles

In France, the vast majority of programmes are not free of charge, even though higher education programmes are generally inexpensive. Student funding has long been characterised by low up-front fees and limited support for students, aiming at ensuring social justice. Yet, the French system has partly failed to address inequalities of access to higher education and has recently been subject to the international movement towards cost-sharing. Thus the status quo is relatively fragile. While national policy reforms do not propose new tuition fee instruments, some higher education institutions have recently renewed their practices, especially by implementing variable fees. These institution-based instruments have not challenged so far the overall predominance of the French service public logic, where higher education is expected to be inexpensive and the cost of studies is to vary according to parental income. However cost-sharing has nonetheless recently taken a major step in France, along with the state laissez-faire in a context of economic crisis and subsequent decreasing public funding, even though it may lead to increasing inequalities.

^^ Back to contents list

The Rise and Fall of Student Fees in a Federal Higher Education System: the case of Germany
Otto Hüther, Georg Krücken

Germany is a highly interesting case concerning tuition fees. While broader transnational trends like New Public Management and marketisation shape its higher education system, the widespread trend towards tuition fees is not mirrored in Germany. We identify several factors for this outcome, among which the federal system is of particular importance. The introduction of tuition fees cannot be decreed by a central government, but must be decided and implemented by 16 federal state governments on a case-by-case basis. Based on the low level of legitimacy in the political discourse and the fact that elections in the 16 states take place at different times, tuition fees, therefore, have become a permanent and too risky election campaign issue for its proponents. Due to shifting coalitions and political risk aversion, the few states that introduced tuition fees later abolished them.

^^ Back to contents list

Access to Dutch Higher Education: issues of tuition fees and student financial support
Hans Vossensteyn

This chapter analyses access and study success in Dutch higher education with relation to developments in tuition fees and student financial support. The long-standing tradition of cost-sharing in Dutch higher education through tuition fees and a system of ‘direct support to students’ with a growing reliance on student loans provides an interesting case to estimate the impact of financial incentives on student choice and study behaviour. Particularly since 1986, public policies have sought a right balance between private and public responsibilities with regard to higher education financing, as well as setting incentives for efficient study behaviour. In this respect, tuition fees have been continuously increased since 1986 and the system of student financial support has been altered many times, e.g. by introducing a public transport card, performance requirements, reducing grants, increasing loans, etc. This chapter will explore whether and how this has had an impact on the demand for higher education and the choices students make within a wider context of access policies. The overall conclusion is that gradual changes in the financial conditions for students do not have a strong impact on access, and that, while stronger financial shocks may stimulate risk and debt aversion, they appear to only have temporary effects on access. The first section provides a brief overview of Dutch higher education and entrance routes into the system. The succeeding sections will discuss tuition policies, student financial support arrangements and the impact of both on access and study success. The chapter ends with broader conclusions.

^^ Back to contents list

What Price University? Rising Tuition Fees, Financial Aid, and Social Justice in Higher Education in the USA
R.N. Nahai

Since the 1960s, the American higher education system has become increasingly commercialized, with tuition fees and interest-bearing student debts rising sharply in the last decade. High ‘sticker price’ tuition fees combined with generous financial aid notionally create a Robin Hood style funding system, capable of supporting the twentieth century beliefs in egalitarian access to higher education as well as competitive market forces. This article describes key features of the US higher education sector, and examines some evidence for the claim that financial aid, which today largely equates to student loans, is an effective policy instrument for achieving social justice aims within a context of escalating higher education costs. Drawing on the University of California as a case study, it argues that financial aid has not adequately bridged the gap between what low- and middle-income people can afford and what college costs, contributing to a decline in application and enrollment by less-advantaged social groups, and raising challenges to the historic mission and character of public colleges and universities.

^^ Back to contents list

Tuition Fees and Participation in Chinese Higher Education: the long march to marketisation and massification
Kai Yu, Jin Jin

The introduction of tuition fees has been one of the most significant reforms in Chinese higher education. This chapter first traces the history of tuition fee policies in China and offers analysis on why China introduced tuition fees. It then looks at the current tuition fee system in Chinese higher education, including the decision-making mechanism, variations between regions and disciplines, as well as the student support system. In the last part, the chapter discusses the impact of tuition fees on Chinese higher education, with a focus on the impact on equality. Although the introduction of tuition fees has driven massification and marketization in Chinese higher education, there is still a long way to go to build a system that can accommodate both the concerns of the market and equality.

^^ Back to contents list

University Financing Policy in Québec: the test of the ‘printemps érable’
Christian Maroy, Pierre Doray, Mamouna Kabore

This chapter focuses on the higher education (HE) funding policy in Québec. Recently, the Québec Liberal Party government (2008 2012) put forward policy aimed at increasing university revenues with a very substantial tuition fees hike, i.e. 75% over five years. During the so-called ‘Printemps Erable’ of 2012, students mobilized against this policy and went on strike until it became a major conflict that led to general elections and a government change in Québec. The first part of the chapter focuses on funding in the history of HE policies in Québec. The second section presents the various public arguments that were mobilized by the key protagonists of the printemps érable. The strong controversies between the narratives reveal a path dependancy of the debate and of the policy to some of the ideals of the so-called Quiet Revolution (in particular the necessity to deal with the problem of democratic access to HE). The chapter concludes that a pure neoliberal policy of marketization has been made difficult, due to this path dependancy and the relative balance of power enacted by the mobilization of the student movement. The third section focuses on the impact of the student movement on recent trends in Québec policies with respect to university funding.

^^ Back to contents list

Notes on Contributors

^^ Back to contents list


Ricardo Biscaia is Assistant Professor in Economics at the University Portucalense Infante D. Henrique, Portugal and is a researcher at the Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES). His main research interests are regional and urban economics, the economics of education, and industrial organisation.

Helen Carasso researches and teaches higher education policy at the University of Oxford, and has a particular interest in questions relating to student fees and funding in England. Her career in the sector began when she headed up public relations and then admissions functions, first in a post-92 institution, then at a collegiate university. This gives Helen a practice-based insight into the issues that she studies; she keeps this current, undertaking consultancy projects for a range of institutions.

Margarida Fonseca Cardoso is Assistant Professor in the Biomedical School of the University of Porto, Portugal: ICBAS – Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar, in the scientific areas of biostatistics and epidemiology. her research interests include epidemiology, public health and education. She is co-author of several publications in the area of higher education as a result of her collaboration with the Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES), and has also publications in the biomedical area.

Nicolas Charles is a lecturer at the Centre Emile Durkheim, University of Bordeaux, France. His main research interest is social justice within higher education, covering various subjects including student financing, selection, transition-to-work, with both quantitative and qualitative international comparative analyses.

Pierre Doray is the former director of the Interuniversity Research Centre on Science and Technology and professor of sociology at the University of Quebec, Montreal. His current research focuses on the school careers of students in post-secondary education and on adult participation in education. He is the leader of a research team on school transitions and educational pathways in Canada. He has also worked on the social construction of relations between economics and education. He has conducted extensive research on participation in adult education in Quebec and elsewhere. In addition to research and teaching, he is a member of various advisory bodies including Quebec’s Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, where he also chairs the committee on adult and continuing education.

Claire Dupuy is Assistant Professor in political science at University of Grenoble Alpes (Sciences Po Grenoble – Pacte). She works on multilevel governance and is interested in territorial state transformations and regionalisation processes in Western Europe. She studies education policy and social policy in France, Germany and Belgium.

Hubert Ertl is Associate Professor of Higher Education and Fellow of Linacre College, University of Oxford. He is the course director of the MSc. in Higher Education at the Department of Education, Oxford. He is also Senior Research Fellow at the ESRC Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE). His research interests include international aspects of higher education, the transitions of graduates into the labour market, access to higher education, vocational education and training, and European Union educational policies.

Otto Hüther is Assistant Professor for Sociology at the Department for Social Sciences at the University of Kassel, Germany. He is also a member at INCHER-Kassel, the International Centre for Higher Education Research at the University of Kassel. His main research interests include higher education research, governance studies and organisational studies.

Jin Jin is a doctoral student at the Institute of Education, University of London. Her main research interest is social justice within higher education.

Mamouna Kabore is a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Quebec, Montreal, and a research assistant at the Interuniversity Research Centre on Science and Technology.

Georg Krücken is Professor of Higher Education Research and Director of INCHER-Kassel, the International Centre for Higher Education Research, both at the University of Kassel, Germany. He received his PhD in sociology from Bielefeld University in 1996. From 2006 to 2011 he was a full professor at the German University of Administrative Sciences. From 1999 to 2001 and in 2011 he was a visiting scholar at Stanford University (Department of Sociology and School of Education). He taught as a guest professor at the Institute for Science Studies, University of Vienna, and at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations, Sciences Po, Paris. He is president of the Gesellschaft für Hochschulforschung (Society for Higher Education Research) and spokesman of the research network ‘New Institutionalism’. His research interests include higher education research, science studies, organisational studies and neo-institutional theory.

Christian Maroy is full professor at the University of Montreal and chairholder of the Canada Research Chair on education policies since October 2010. Previously, he was professor of sociology at the University of Louvain and director of the GIRSEF research centre between 1998 and 2010. His main research interests are education policies, governance and regulation within education systems, the school market, and social inequalities in education. He has recently published L’école à l’épreuve de la performance scolaire (De Boeck, 2013) and Les marchés scolaires. Sociologie d’une politique publique d’éducation (Presses universitaires de France, 2013) with Georges Felouzis and Agnès van Zanten.

R.N. Nahai is a doctoral student at the Department of Education, University of Oxford. Her research is focused on student funding in higher education, with an emphasis on student loans. Broadly, her research interests centre on social equality, and humane and ethics-based policy frameworks that support human flourishing.

Vera Rocha is a researcher at the Center for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES) and a PostDoc at Copenhagen Business School. Her main research interests are related to higher education (HE funding, competition and diversification), industrial organisation (entrepreneurship, firm and industry dynamics) and labour economics (wage differentials, human capital and occupational choice).

Pedro N. Teixeira is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics and Vice Rector of the University of Porto, Portugal and Director of the Center for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES). His main research interests are on the economics of education and the history of economics. He has published several journal articles in higher education and economics journals and has edited several collective volumes.

Hans Vossensteyn is the Director of the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at the University of Twente, where he is also a senior researcher and lecturer. Hans has been a Professor and Programme Leader of the MBA Hochschul- und Wissenschaftsmanagement at the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences in Germany since 2007. He completed his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Public Policy at the University of Twente in 1991 and completed his PhD (cum laude) on student price-responsiveness in 2005. Since 1991, Hans has participated in and managed a multitude of research projects covering a wide array of subjects including: funding of higher education; student financing and access to higher education internationalisation; higher education indicators; selection and study success; quality of higher education; often leading to quantitative and qualitative international comparative analyses. Between 2000 and 2011, he was a member of the International Advisory Board of the International Comparative Higher Education Finance and Accessibility Project, coordinated by Professor Bruce D. Johnstone at the State University of New York at Buffalo, sponsored by the Ford Foundation. Between 2005 and 2010, he was a member of the Adjudication Committee supervising the five-year Measuring the Effectiveness of Student Aid (MESA) project funded by the Canada Millennium Scholarships Foundation. Between 2009 and 2010, Hans served as an external expert and secretary for the Committee on the Future Sustainability of Dutch Higher Education, which set out a new strategic vision for higher education in the Netherlands. He also contributed to a project on widening access for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) between 2012 and 2013.

Kai Yu is Associate Professor and Assistant Dean at the Graduate School of Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. His main research interest is management in higher education. 

Related and recent books

Higher Education in England and France Since the 1980s C.M.A. DEER

Cross-national Attraction in Education HUBERT ERTL

Modularisation of Vocational Education in Europe HUBERT ERTL

Educational Policy Borrowing DAVID PHILLIPS, KIMBERLY OCHS

Globalisation and Europeanisation in Education ROGER DALE, SUSAN ROBERTSON

Higher Education and International Capacity Building DAVID STEPHENS

Europeanizing Education MARTIN LAWN, SOTIRIA GREK


Internationalisation of Higher Education and Global Mobility BERNHARD STREITWIESER

Education, Privatisation and Social Justice IAN MACPHERSON, SUSAN ROBERTSON, GEOFFREY WALFORD

Transnational Policy Flows in European Education ANDREAS NORDIN, DANIEL SUNDBERG


International Higher Education's Scholar-Practitioners BERNHARD STREITWIESER, ANTHONY C. OGDEN

International Schools MARY HAYDEN, JEFF THOMPSON

Knowledge and the Study of Education GEOFF WHITTY, JOHN FURLONG

European Educational Research (Re)Constructed MIKE ZAPP, MARCELO MARQUES, JUSTIN J.W. POWELL, with contributions by Gert Biesta & Jo B. Helgetun

Comparing Post-Socialist Transformations MAIA CHANKSELIANI, IVETA SILOVA

Book Reviews