Increasing tuition fees do not necessarily have a negative impact on higher education enrollment if they are balanced with student support, according to a European Commission-funded study published on Monday (23 June).
Even among students from lower socio-economic groups, rising tuition fees are not a problem unless the magnitude of the cost change is exceptional, concludes the study, titled “Do changes in cost-sharing have an impact on the behaviour of students and higher education institutions?“
However, increases in fees do seem to result in falling enrollments among older students. The Commission report underlines that grants and/or loans are crucial for offsetting negative consequences of fees or fee rises on university enrollments.
“Student fees are a reality for a large proportion of students in Europe – and a controversial issue,” said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.
“This study questions some common assumptions and provides valuable evidence for the ongoing debate in the EU on how best to fund higher education to ensure institutions provide the highest quality of education to increasing numbers of students, while guaranteeing fair access,” she said in a statement.
The Commission report was carried out by independent researchers, who analysed the impact of changes in student fees in nine countries, including the EU member states Austria, the UK, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Portugal as well as Canada and South Korea.
For higher education institutions, introducing tuition fees usually increases their total amount of resources. However, the income from fees is not always invested in ways that directly improves the student experience, the report stated.
Moreover, tuition fees do not seem to make public university systems more responsive to changing demand (for example by developing new types of programmes). Instead, many other factors, such as tradition, prestige and accreditation rules, influence how institutions can and do act.
EU heads of states agreed in February 2013 to launch a €6 billion Youth Employment Initiative, with the aim of making it fully operational by 1 January 2014.
At a summit in June 2013, they agreed to disburse about €8 billion – more than the 6 billion originally earmarked in February – to fight youth joblessness, with the bulk available over a two-year period starting in 2014 and the remainder becoming available over the full seven years of the next EU budget.
A Youth Guarantee scheme, introduced by each EU country according to its individual need, will apply to young people who are out of work for more than four months. It aims to give them a real chance to further their education, or get a job, apprenticeship or traineeship. The EU has a 2020 target of 75% employment for the working-age population (20-64 years).