Between Nations, Private Higher Education Role Varies

(Photo: Jisc, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Jisc, Creative Commons)

A report published by the Centre for Global Higher Education, which is the largest research center in the world with a dedicated focus on higher education and its future development, has taken a closer look at the unique role of private higher education in six countries.

The report, “The entry and experience of private providers of higher education in six countries,” focuses on private higher education in the USA, Australia, Germany, Poland, Japan, and Chile.  The authors explore the history, context and nature of market entry by private providers, the relationships and interactions between private and public providers, course provision and student participation, the roles played by governments and regulatory authorities, and instances of market failure and its impact on student participation, retention, and achievement in each country.

However, direct comparisons between the six countries are difficult to attain, as the definitions of “private” and “public” higher education vary from country to country.

The authors found a number of common characteristics of private higher education in all six countries.  These include teaching-oriented private providers, which are most likely to offer low-cost subjects in the humanities and social sciences.  Most often, this includes business, law, computing, hospitality and tourism, and management.

While private higher education institutions were, for the most part, less prestigious than those in the public sector, this was not found to be true for not-for-profit institutions in the United States.  In addition, the majority of private providers were found to rely on tuition fees for their key source of income, while some also received state or public funding.

Private institutions were also found to be more likely to suffer the consequences of a decrease in demand first, which causes institutions to close.  The authors say that this can result in educational and financial consequences for students who are enrolled in these failing institutions.

Private institutions in the US, Australia and Germany offer courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate level, and can move quickly to offer courses in an effort to meet unmet demands, delivering them in convenient ways, including online courses, evening courses, and weekend courses.  In addition, all three countries have worked to increase the number of individuals enrolled who had previously been excluded from higher education and have also opened opportunities for those who had previously missed out on the higher education experience when they were younger.

Meanwhile, Japan, Poland, and Chile have all experienced private provisions playing an important role in mass higher education participation.  The majority of higher education institutions in these three countries are private, with the key function being “demand absorption.”

Meanwhile, a number of characteristics were found to be unique to each country.  For example, the level, nature, and rigor of state regulation, as well as accreditation regimes, and quality assurance each vary from country to country.  In addition, the access to government funding that private providers are offered, as well as the students’ access to government financial support, also were found to vary.